Next week I’ll be taking part in a panel event considering the question: how do we create a truly accessible healthcare system?
As Chief Executive of the cell therapy charity Anthony Nolan, I am privileged to see firsthand what our health system can achieve for patients in one of the most complex and challenging areas of medicine.
I also see opportunities to protect the principle of universal access, which is being eroded by the immense pressures on today’s NHS and the cost-of-living crisis.
A core principle of our health service is access based on need, and not ability to pay. Yet more and more we see examples of a ‘two-tier’ system emerging, with access to private medicines or services supplementing NHS care pathways for those who can afford them.
This inequality plays out along geographic lines too. Patients in one part of the country can access specialist mental health support throughout their transplant journey, while those in another face months or years on waiting lists. The same can be said of financial support, fertility advice, nutrition, physiotherapy - these are critically important parts of the stem cell transplant care pathway but increasingly limited in access.
There is no silver bullet, but what I am certain of is that lived experience needs to be given much more prominence in how services are planned and delivered. Without patient and family members shaping services we cannot hope to ensure they meet the full spectrum of need and tackle deep-seated healthcare inequalities.
I’m looking forward to delving into these issues in more detail at the Health & Care Forum fringe event at Labour Party Conference: partyconference.co.uk/access-to-healthcare-how-to-create-a-truly-accessible-healthcare-system
Do reach out to share your thoughts on accessible healthcare and get involved in the conversation by tweeting @AnthonyNolan.