John Healey MP: How to develop healthcare policy

Yesterday, I met the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, John Healey MP, at the Royal Society of Medicine in London where he gave a speech as Labour launched a paper entitled “After the ‘pause’ – Labour’s alternative on the Health and Social Care Bill”. Healey raised three primary concerns over the Bill, namely the breaking up of the NHS; ensuring patient and democratic accountability; and turning the NHS into a free market.

As independent advisors on healthcare engagement, it has been interesting for the team at Creation Healthcare to review and discuss the UK Government’s proposals and to answer questions from our clients worldwide about how the proposed changes will affect their own engagement with stakeholders in the UK including healthcare professionals, payers, policymakers and patients. Of course, with increasing uncertainty about what the UK’s health system will look like in the future, it is impossible to answer these questions accurately yet. And this is a challenge for every stakeholder too – uncertainty and indecision is not good for morale or long term planning.

What struck me while listening to John Healey yesterday was that the advice he offered about public policymaking is not dissimilar to the principle of sound healthcare engagement strategy development.

Listen before legislating

Commenting on the Government’s ‘pause to listen’ as it draws to an end – a nine-week period of looking at evidence of what works, listening to and learning from those who know the NHS – Healey pointed out that this activity should have taken place before defining the future shape and form of the NHS.

The principles of good public policy are consult first, legislate second and implement third. This proper order has been reversed with the NHS reorganisation”, says Healey.

UK Shadow Secretary of State for Health, John Healey MP, at the Royal Society of Medicine yesterday says he wishes the Government had ‘listened’ first, before ‘legislating’

In the nine weeks’ ‘pause’ the Government is doing what it should have been doing for the nine months before – looking at the evidence of what works, listening hard to those who know the NHS and learning from the views they get. This is not rocket science. It’s simply good government and it’s good politics. Both have been totally absent in the health department since last May.

Healthcare Engagement Strategy

What a parallel with healthcare engagement strategy! The Creation Discovery methodology we use with business leaders in healthcare organizations is based on the same principles: listen to your stakeholders first; then develop your strategy; then implement it. And with Creation Discovery, keep measuring engagement as it takes place, and learning from it.

Perhaps that should be a final step for Mr Healey’s policymaking process too: in the changing environment, unless we continually listen to stakeholders, study their behaviour and learn from it, we will inevitably fail to operate as effectively as we could. That’s true whether you are a government developing healthcare policy, or a healthcare organization looking for better health or business outcomes.

Thanks to Health Policy Insight for publishing the text of Labour’s paper, and the Royal Society of Medicine for hosting the event and publishing John Healey’s speech.

Creation Healthcare works with business leaders, marketers and communicators in healthcare companies and organizations and helps them to develop and implement successful engagement strategies. To speak with one of our consultants, contact us now.

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