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Lansley — will you be taking us with you?

Lynn Young
Primary Healthcare Adviser for the RCN

Andrew Lansley's now infamous appearance at the Royal College of Nursing Congress 2011 raised questions about his ability to drive forward NHS reform

I hope that a number of Nursing in Practice readers attended the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress 2011 and were in the auditorium when members voted for the motion, which focused on Congress not having confidence in Andrew Lansley's ability to manage the NHS. This all took place before Mr Lansley arrived in Liverpool to attend a meeting with about 50 RCN members. His refusal to address the whole of Congress did not go down well and some members stated that, under these circumstances, the RCN should decline Mr Lansley's offer.

The meeting did go ahead and all of you must have been aware of the huge media coverage it attracted. We have been promised that the Health and Social Care Bill will be looked at once more and further engagement and consultation with stakeholders will take place. To quote Mr Lansley himself, "We wish to get the health reforms right".

So, who knows what the future holds in terms of the organisation, management and funding of the NHS? The Westminster coalition government has been given a wake-up call and must, surely, feel that it cannot invoke huge and risky change to England's most precious commodity - the NHS - without listening to the people. Voluntary, medical and nursing organisations have loudly voiced their informed concerns, but, unbelievably the government has declared that it intends to carry on with its plans for health reform.

As a result of what took place at RCN Congress, more significant changes might be agreed - who knows? We are living in interesting times, but there is no doubt that many nurses do not like what is happening to many of our citizens right now. Benefits and tax changes are beginning to have a negative impact on people's lives, which, in time, will have a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing.

Unemployment and poor social conditions have severe implications for families and can have long-term effects that harm the next generation. But it is not all bad news. The most recent data available on the prevention and management of coronary heart disease are impressive and equivalent to the best within Europe. The National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease has been a spectacular success but, sadly, we are in no position to be complacent about the future. With 25% of our young people overweight, and heading for diabetes and coronary heart disease unless they fail to eat better and be more active, our future data may be a great disappointment, with people dying at a younger age than their parents.

Many people believe that current problems, along with government plans for the NHS, will result in patients receiving poorer care, as well as diminished public health. There are a number of false economies when taking action to reduce spending. If we become more relaxed about public health we simply store up horrible health problems for the future. In the same way, reductions in education and early years investment will lead to young people growing up without the skills required to live fulfilling lives. Such people, sadly, often land up in the most expensive of places - prison.

Political decisions are the toughest of decisions to make; how do we invest the nation's precious funds in the best possible way? One thing is for sure, politicians cannot make the best decisions in isolation - they need to engage with and listen to the people, and take the people with them when changes have to be made. Maybe Mr Lansley, Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron learned just a little humility as a result of what took place during Congress.

Good luck to you all, and keep us informed about what the politicians are getting up to, both nationally and closer to home.