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From the Queen’s Speech to the next election: what now for the government’s agenda?
From the Queen’s Speech to the next election: what now for the Government’s agenda?

Posts Tagged ‘health’

Boris Johnson is Safe… For Now

On the surface Boris Johnson commands the support of nearly all his MPs. He will derive some comfort from this public display of loyalty. In terms of his future, the relationship with the Conservative parliamentary party is all that matters. Quite a lot of voters may tell pollsters that they regard Johnson as a ‘liar’. Normally calm constitutional historians and Archbishops may fume. Parts of the media and Twitter can be in uproar. But, as long as Johnson keeps his MPs on board he can carry on. The power to remove him lies with Tory MPs alone. During his post-Easter statement to the Commons, the first since he received his penalty notice for the birthday party in Number Ten, only one backbencher called on him to go.

But the surface does not tell the whole story. Over the bank holiday I phoned several Tory MPs including a few who are uneasy about  their Prime Minister becoming a ‘law breaker’. They told me they would not contemplate for a single second speaking out in public against Johnson before the local elections. Their party members are spending their spare time campaigning energetically and they would not undermine such effort by condemning their party leader. They would never be forgiven by activists if they did so. In other words the May local elections are a big protective shield for Johnson and also a threat. In advance of the vote, quite a lot of Tory MPs feel they have no choice but to suspend judgement. Any critical quotes would help Labour. That does not mean their support is guaranteed if the Conservatives perform poorly in the elections.

As has been the case since ‘partygate’ erupted, the mood of the Tory doubters in the parliamentary party fluctuates on a near daily basis. There have been times when they were ready to make a move against Johnson. On other occasions they are resolved not to do so. Ukraine is another factor fuelling the changing judgements, although from my conversations this is becoming less potent compared with the fact that that important elections loom. Political parties are at their most tribal during a campaign. There is another reason why the mood constantly changes. Many of the MPs, especially those from the ‘red wall’, are new to national politics. Suddenly they face the most daunting of decisions, whether or not to remove a Prime Minister. They do not quite know what to think or what to do.

In reality the parliamentary party divides into three sections. There are the Johnson loyalists who will stick with him even if he receives more penalty notices and the Sue Gray report is damning. There is a tiny minority for now calling for him to go. In the middle there is a significant section waiting to see what happens next. That includes some ministers who are unsure how this is going to play out. All are loyal for the time being except for the significant resignation last week of Lord Woolfson, a Justice Minister. It’s easier for peers to resign when local elections are being contested. They are above the electoral fray. In some cases Johnson cannot assume that loyalty will endure across the government after the May elections.

The strategy in Number Ten, a more nimble operation after recent changes, is clear. They call for “perspective” as Johnson focuses on Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and his plans for dealing with the migrant crisis. Johnson’s every move is made with his own survival in mind. He and his new inner circle know he is not safe yet. Johnson seeks to be the indispensable ‘man of action’, visiting Kiev earlier this month and off to India this week. After his act of contrition in the Commons he delivered a different more upbeat performance to his own MPs at a private meeting, linking his plan to send migrants to Rwanda with an attack on the BBC and the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggesting they were soft on Putin. This is a classic Johnson tactic, seeking to tick several boxes in a single assertion. He knows most of his MPs approve of the Rwanda scheme, admire his approach to Putin and are angry about the BBC and the Archbishop. After the May elections Johnson plans to unveil a Queen’s Speech that will again be aimed at pleasing his MPs with bills on ‘levelling up’ and other legislative items that he will claim represents the ‘people’s priorities’.

But Johnson and his advisers are not wholly in control of events. The metropolitan police investigation continues without any indication of which party is being scrutinised and when the next penalty notices will be handed out. No one in Number Ten knows when the investigation will end. When it does the Gray report will be published and, on the basis of her interim findings published earlier this year, it will be damning. In his Commons’ statement Johnson focused only on the Number Ten birthday party. If charged for other events he will have to find new explanations. Johnson has a distinct capacity for climbing out of deep holes. But he is not entirely lacking in self-awareness. Indeed he can be introspective and melancholic at times. Mostly I hear from his allies how he is robustly determined to keep going  but one did note that this crisis is getting Johnson down. With his ‘Churchillian’ sense of destiny, being the first prime ministerial law breaker was not meant to be part of the narrative.

The context is as much a key to his fate as the scale of the law-breaking. If the Conservatives do badly in the local elections and Labour soar, Tory MPs will begin to worry about whether they will lose their seats. The elections next month might not be as clear cut as that. They rarely are. But then there is the Wakefield by-election probably to be held later in the summer, a big test for both Johnson and Keir Starmer.

There are some other big themes that will dominate the coming months. The IMF has forecast that the UK economy will suffer the weakest growth out of the G7 countries. Rising inflation is destabilising for even the strongest of governments and the Johnson administration is fragile. The collapse in the standing of Rishi Sunak might have removed a leadership rival but any government needs a Chancellor with authority when the economy is weak. The dynamic between Johnson and Sunak will be pivotal. At the moment both are vulnerable. Usually one has been in a stronger position than the other. Sunak’s spring statement was framed when the Chancellor was at his most assertive as Johnson fought for his political life. In the past Johnson’s deeper interventionist  instincts have tended to win out because he was in a strong enough position to prevail over his Chancellor. For now at least they dance together after Sunak decided to stay on rather than resign after receiving his penalty notice and with Johnson currently too weak to sack him. If Johnson emerges safely from ‘partygate’ he might be tempted to appoint another chancellor, but none of the options are straightforward. The likes of Liz Truss and Sajid Javid share Sunak’s fiscal conservatism. Javid’s tax affairs are also attracting media interest.

For whoever is Prime Minister and Chancellor this autumn, the budget will be a moment of great significance for the economy and the future of this government. There could well be a further economic statement from Sunak this summer although he is keen to avoid one, wanting to focus on his budget and not give the impression of ‘panic’ reactions before then. Sunak has spent some time studying what happened in the 1970s when inflation raged more wildly than now. He noted that there were endless emergency budgets that tended to fuel further panic.

Even so the autumn is a long way off. There will be many twists and turns before then.

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Are women finally being heard?

Women in the UK are becoming increasingly vocal about the challenges they face in their healthcare and the unjust variation in access to services. When the Government opened their consultation to inform a Women’s Health Strategy in Spring 2021, over 110,000 respondents took the opportunity to make it known that the system does not work for them. Following years of campaigning, it comes as no surprise to women and those in the women’s health community that an overwhelming 84% of people felt their voices are simply not being heard when they seek health care.

By demonstrating an interest in women’s voices and their experiences, recognising failures in the system, and committing to developing a Women’s Health strategy, the Government has taken a positive initial step, albeit an ambitious one. There is no disease-specific focus and no target patient population, unlike other policy areas. This challenge affects 51% of our population and includes natural, life course events that women have, for many years, been told to just live with. With publication of the strategy imminent, the Government now need to demonstrate that they are willing to not only listen to women’s voices but to implement action based on what they are saying.

Women continue to face challenges when it comes to choices about their own bodies. Ongoing variation in access to abortion care, a full range of contraceptive choice, and a holistic range of menopause treatment options, all impact on women’s freedom to choose the treatments that work best for them. The Government’s commitment to prioritising the menopause in the upcoming strategy and cutting prescription costs for Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRT) in response to the Menopause Revolution campaign is hopeful. However, the Government’s initial attempt to reverse progress made in at-home abortion during the pandemic despite women citing a clear preference for this to continue, suggests more need to be done to prioritise women’s voices, choices and rights in practice.

In addition to not being heard, a fragmented system and the pandemic backlog have resulted in services that are increasingly difficult to navigate, leading to the most vulnerable falling through the cracks. Upcoming system reforms focusing on the integration of care offer opportunities to take a patient centered approach and reduce inequalities in outcomes. The Government is also expected to advocate for the establishment of ‘women’s health hubs’, which aim to enable access to all required care in a one-stop shop, in line with calls from advocates including the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Despite the promise of better integration locally, fragmentation is continuing at a national level. Abortion has been removed from the Women’s Health Strategy and is expected to feature in the upcoming Sexual Health Strategy. With a wider interest in health inequalities, the Government must recognise the connection between these elements of healthcare and align planning nationally to support local areas to integrate care.

Committing to a women’s health strategy is a promising step in the right direction for this Government and has offered women long overdue hope. Action in response to prominent campaigns, such as the Menopause Revolution, to change the way women can interact with the system allow us to believe that the challenges women have faced for far too long could be overcome within their lifetime.

The Government have a real opportunity to ensure women have their voices heard. To do this, they must recognise the challenges they face, capitalise on system reforms to integrate care, collaborate with the women’s health community, and most importantly, commit to funding appropriate and immediate action. In a health system and economy designed by and for men, the time for meaningful, impactful change, is now.

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WA Investor Services supports Agathos’ investment in Hunter Healthcare

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Agathos’ acquisition of Hunter Healthcare, a specialist recruiter working across the healthcare and life sciences sectors. The investment will help support Hunter’s ambitious growth plans, providing vital staffing solutions to healthcare providers and medical researchers, including developing its offer in international markets.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, with its team of healthcare policy experts providing insights integral to the deal process, working closely with Agathos and other due diligence providers to deliver clarity on how ongoing structural changes to the NHS, the elective recovery and acceleration of the digital transformation agenda will affect healthcare recruitment decisions and priorities.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are extremely pleased to have worked with Agathos on this deal. NHS staffing is a very high-profile issue at the moment and ensuring the NHS meets patient demand while undertaking fundamental system reform is a priority for political and NHS leaders, not least as they tackle the post-Covid backlog. As a market leading provider of political due diligence in healthcare transactions we were in an extremely strong position to support Agathos’ successful deal and we look forward to seeing the business develop over the coming years.”

Hugh Costello, Investment Director at Agathos said: “WA Comms produced a comprehensive report with insightful conclusions that were well supported by desktop research and interviews with sector participants. The team was available for calls as and when required and were always a total pleasure to deal with. Ultimately, the output produced by WA was instrumental in our decision to complete our investment. I would recommend their services wholeheartedly.”

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WA Investor Services supports Livingbridge’s investment in Everlight

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Livingbridge’s acquisition of Everlight, an innovative 24-hour teleradiology business. Livingbridge’s investment will help support Everlight in building its pool of exceptional radiologists, driving technological innovation and propelling international growth.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, with its team of specialist political risk analysts assessing the impact of structural changes in the NHS on the business, NHS strategies for recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the potential implications of long-term workforce and technological issues affecting the sector.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are extremely pleased to have worked with Livingbridge on this deal. Everlight is very well placed to assist the NHS in delivering cost-effective, high quality services and providing much needed capacity at a time when the health service is experiencing unprecedented demand.  Our market leading expertise in the health sector put us in a strong position to support Livingbridge’s successful deal and we look forward to seeing the business develop over the coming years.”

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WA Investor Services supports Livingbridge’s investment in AJM Healthcare

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Livingbridge’s investment in AJM Healthcare, a leading provider of NHS wheelchair services. The investment will help support AJM’s continued growth, enabling more users to benefit from its innovative, comprehensive and tailored solutions.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, drawing on its market-leading expertise of evolving NHS commissioning policy, changes to the government’s procurement processes, and the wider reform agenda for health and social care. This insight was supported by the views of key decision makers and policy influencers from across WA’s extensive network.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We were delighted to support Livingbridge on this deal, at a time when the NHS is going through a substantial period of change. The restructuring of the commissioning process and the government’s wider focus on reform in the sector will have a significant impact on all businesses working in health and social care. WA’s deep network in both government and the NHS has informed our understanding of what the new landscape will look like and allowed us to generate valuable insights for Livingbridge. Our congratulations to everyone involved in the deal; we look forward to seeing AJM go from strength to strength in the years ahead.”

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Webinar – Balancing the health of the nation with the health of the economy

On Thursday 15th October 2020, WA Communications Director, Caroline Gordon, hosted a webinar exploring how the Government can balance the health of the nation with the health of the economy.

We are living through unprecedented times in which a devastating public health crisis is creating a global economic slowdown.

The Government has to make daily decisions that balance the health of the nation against the health of our economy. Political, media and public pressure is building and a difficult winter is approaching. There are no easy answers – just more questions facing every business and organisation in the UK as to how to respond, plan and communicate.

Panellists included:

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

 

 

 

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Novo Nordisk chooses WA Communications for diabetes brief

WA Communications’ growing health team has been chosen by leading diabetes company Novo Nordisk to drive government affairs in their diabetes business, making the first half of 2020 WA Health’s most successful period to date.

WA Health won a competitive pitch to secure the retained account with Novo Nordisk, supporting the company with their innovative type 2 diabetes portfolio. Head of Health Caroline Gordon will lead the account alongside Associate Director Dean Sowman, working to Dan Beety, Director of Corporate Affairs at Novo Nordisk.

Dan Beety of Novo Nordisk said:

‘‘We put in place a rigorous selection process and were impressed by Caroline and her team. WA’s insight, commitment and enthusiasm shone through. Their approach brought creative ideas that showed a deep understanding of what we’re trying to achieve.”

The wins cap off a strong first half of 2020 for WA’s health team, who also recently won a five way competitive pitch to work with Sanofi’s rare disease franchise.

Earlier this month, WA Communications also won the coveted CIPR Consultancy of the Year award.

To talk to Caroline about your business needs, please get in touch via carolinegordon@wacomms.co.uk.

 

 

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Mental Health MPs’ top priority according to new poll for WA

Research from WA Communications on the health priorities of the new parliament has found that 62 per cent of MPs see mental health as the top priority for health spending over the next five years.

The research, informed by a cross-party YouGov poll of 100 parliamentarians, finds that more MPs selected mental health spending as a top three priority than any other condition, coming ahead of cancer care (selected by 35 per cent), cardiovascular (14 per cent) and diabetes (8 per cent).

The findings reflect the political prominence of mental health over the past few years with all major parties placing it core to their health plans. Yet a significant gap between the parties exists, with 80% of Labour MPs placing it as their top priority, in contrast to 47% of Conservative MPs.

Cancer care, traditionally a key political health issue, falls behind mental health overall, but is still viewed by more than a third of MPs as one of the top three priority areas for NHS funding. Conservative MPs identified cancer care as the area they would most like to see money spent on, with almost half (46%) selecting this.

This is despite Conservative Party plans to broaden the scope of the Cancer Drugs Fund into an Innovative Medicines Fund to support other areas such as autoimmune and rare diseases.

Prevention agenda

Matt Hancock’s ambition of an NHS shifting the NHS’s resources from treatment to prevention also appears to be backed by parliamentarians. 69 per cent of MPs believe the NHS should “direct more resources towards prevention, rather than increasing funding for new treatments.” This is 5% higher than when this question was asked a year previously, suggesting growing support for the prevention agenda.

Medicines access

MPs also believe that patients in the UK get good access to the medicines that can treat them best.

More than two thirds (67%) of MPs agreed with this statement, particularly Conservative MPs, with 79% stating this is the case. And just 25% of MPs believe improving the availability of new medicines on the NHS is a top funding priority.

This is despite a steady drumbeat of medicines access issues being raised throughout the last parliament, such as that of Orkambi.

Labour’s high-profile General Election focus on medicines pricing and life sciences companies being part of Brexit trade talks isn’t reflected by the Parliamentary Labour Party, with more than half (52%) of Labour MPs stating that patients get good access to medicines.

 

To discuss the wider findings and what they mean for your business in more detail, please contact Caroline Gordon, WA’s Director and Head of Health, at carolinegordon@wacomms.co.uk.

 

The polling was conducted by YouGov between 8th and 23rd January 2020. 101 MPs were polled, including 40 from the Conservative Party and 40 from the Labour Party.

 

 

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