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16 March 2018

Independent health policy committee could take politics out of NHS

Committee could secure long-term sustainability of the health service

NHS commission
NHS commission

An independent health policy committee should be established to end political control of the NHS and secure its sustainability over the long term, argues a new report.

Published today, Futureproofing our NHS: A generational shift (pdf) identifies the politicisation of the health service as one of the biggest threats to its future. An independent body, modelled on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, would ensure the NHS does not fall victim to short-term planning and superficial fixes by politicians.

The report is the product of a student-led health commission that was overseen by academics from King’s College London. The commission was tasked with coming up with radical and creative ideas for how the health service can meet the needs and expectations of those who will use it in the future.

This is the first project of its kind to engage young people by training them to carry out their own policy analysis and make practical recommendations about an institution that they have an important stake in as future users of the NHS.

Among the commission’s other proposals, it recommends that policymakers:

  • develop programmes that promote healthy lifestyles beyond clinical settings
  • support re-specialisation and greater career flexibility for NHS staff
  • make it easier for staff and patients to suggest and develop new innovations in the health service
  • create a digital platform that connects users and provides them with support as they pursue healthy behaviours.

The commission’s research included running policy labs (small, interactive workshops) with key stakeholders, experts and people of interest, as well as analysing data from interviews, surveys and desk research.

Anne Marie Rafferty, Professor of Nursing Policy at King’s College London, said:

“There is an urgent need to train and develop the next generation of health and social care leaders, and build a movement for change in the NHS, to ensure the health service is fit for purpose in the years to come. This project was a first step towards that goal, looking forwards as well as backwards on the 70th anniversary of the NHS.”

Jonathan Grant, Professor of Public Policy at King’s College London, said:

“The commission’s recommendations offer an ambitious but practical plan for how to upgrade the NHS. But one of their key findings was that their proposals would only be possible in a depoliticised environment, when independent, non-partisan experts – rather than politicians –  have discretion over the direction of the health service and can better plan for the demographic challenges it is going to face over the coming decades.”

Read the report, Futureproofing our NHS: A generational shift

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