Date published: 17 March 2008
Rochdale’s Labour Parliamentary Candidate Simon Danczuk has announced the appointment of Debbie Abrahams, former Chairwoman of Rochdale Primary Care Trust, as health advisor to his campaign team.
“Debbie has been very helpful since I became Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate last January providing me with background information on health and health services issues in Rochdale,” he explained. “I am delighted that Debbie has agreed to take on the role of health advisor in my team, bringing extensive experience and professional expertise on health to my campaign.”
Debbie Abrahams was appointed as Chairwoman of Rochdale Primary Care Trust in 2002 after four years as a Non-Executive Director of Bury and Rochdale Health Authority and many years service as a public health professional.
She resigned as Chairwoman in 2006 and Mr Danczuk added that he was delighted to have someone who was not afraid to challenge national policy on his team.
“I joined the Labour Party shortly after I resigned in 2006,” Ms Abrahams explained. “As founders of the NHS, I believe that the Labour Party and the core values of the NHS are inextricably linked: equity, fairness and social justice. Although there have been significant developments in the NHS since1997, for example, reductions in waiting times for elective treatments such as hip replacements, improvements in heath service quality and massive investments into NHS staff and services, I have challenged and will continue to challenge health policy at a local and national level to ensure that it reflects these core values.
“One major issue to address is the blurring between health and adult care; the former is free at the point of need, the latter is means tested. We need to ensure that the current national consultation on care tackles the inequity and inconsistency in care service provision and recognises and supports the exceptional work of our carers, including young carers. We need to reaffirm a public service ethos in health and social care, where person-centred care is paramount and quality not cost drives decisions about services.”
She added that health and social care should provide efficient and value-for-money services, and should be managed in a business-like way but not as a business.
“I do not support further private-sector involvement in the commissioning or provision of either health or social care unless there is a clear and demonstrable need,” she said. “Health is not a commodity to be bought like a tin of beans.”
In further outlining the health challenges ahead for Rochdale, she added that the decisions made to reconfigure hospital services under ‘Healthy Futures’ and ‘Making it Better’ were made on incomplete evidence and inadequate considerations on equity grounds. “We will lobby for amendments to these decisions,” she explained. “We support developments to provide care closer to home and for GPs, dentists and other primary care workers to provide equitable value for money services.”
She also touched upon the need to strengthen mental health services.
“This has long been seen as a Cinderella service; we need to ensure adequate investment into mental health services and develop a culture within Rochdale which promotes positive well being. We need to pay more attention to the causes of ill-health and make better use of the partnership duties between the NHS and Local Authority; this is not just about healthy lifestyles – the NHS can only do so much, and we need to make sure that policies on, for example, transport or regeneration all consider their impacts on health.
“Fundamentally we need to change the governance arrangements for health and social care: the Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee needs to be extended and strengthened; Local Strategic Partnerships need to widen their role in strategic needs assessment and commissioning; and local people, service users and carers need to be at the heart of all health and social care planning.”
Finally, she argued that there should be no room given to those who opportunistically exploit the health and social care agenda for their own purpose and personal gain. “I am pleased that Simon supports this approach and honoured that he has asked me to be his health advisor; I believe we are extremely fortunate to have someone of Simon’s ability and integrity fighting for Rochdale.”