Our health policy

Quality care for all

Medway Liberal Democrats will work towards having a team of community support workers helping people across Medway. The help shall be provided to people in all housing types, thus preventing those living in private rented accommodation from falling through the safety net that is currently provided for council tenants and housing associations.

Through encouraging more people to become foster carers we shall ensure that our most vulnerable children & young people will have safe and caring homes. This will prevent them from the detriment and the expensive costs of placing them in care institutions. Provision of free transport passes for eligible young carers will enable them to get to school more easily and access social activities and other support that they need.

Medway Liberal Democrats will support elderly and vulnerable people through better integrated health and social care. We will implement best social care practice, review social care provision and demand, and work with providers to ensure that services meet needs across Medway. We will improve access to advice and information for people with long term care needs, along with their carers, thus enabling better care provision. Voluntary sector service provision needs to be supported to ensure that the best outcomes are achieved for people needing those services.

Integration between health, social care, housing and employment services needs to improve to provide better outcomes for people in care and requiring support services. It is essential that healthcare services are accessible for people who are deaf, blind or have complex needs so that they are able to access services, communicate with healthcare professionals and receive information about their health. Disabled people will be at the heart of our '5 Point Medway Health Plan', so that they are given the opportunity to shape the system that reflects their needs and experiences.

Sharing of information between the NHS and Medway Council needs to improve to create better integrated care and outcomes for people in the health and social care systems. The sharing of information needs to ensure the protection of vulnerable people. The provision of quality healthcare across Medway will ensure that residents get the best of health, social care and wider public and community services.

Protecting GP services

Medway's population has grown and the number of GPs (headcount) per person has fallen. Higher GP workload has negatively impacted on GP morale, increasing the likelihood of GPs leaving the profession or reducing hours, and worsening workforce shortages. The current situation makes recruitment of GPs harder due to the workload. We will encourage easier access to GPs, through expanding evening and weekend opening hours. Use of better communication through modern technology can reduce the need for unnecessary face to face appointments. We shall commission a report into providing better and integrated services for Medway residents.

We will support GPs, nurses, mental health professionals, and other health and care professionals to work together across Medway to provide a multi-disciplinary health and care service. We will encourage making greater appropriate use of nurses, physiotherapists, and pharmacists, and also phone or video appointments, where clinically suitable, to reduce the burden placed on GPs.

We will encourage walk-in GP services in Medway to reduce health inequalities, for people from vulnerable groups, such as homeless people, refugees, or those with chronic mental health problems. This is currently not being provided for outside of our local hospital.

Clinical Commissioning Groups and Medway Council need to collaborate on the commissioning of services, further use of pooled budgets, joint appointments and arrangements, and emerging governance structures for Integrated Care Systems. We advocate the principle of local government leading on the commissioning of both health and care services, where these are currently commissioned by CCGs. We will reform Health and Wellbeing Boards to make them more accountable and effective. We will introduce through a 'duty to cooperate' that requires the NHS, in particular Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, to engage with Health and Wellbeing Boards to reshape and integrate health and care services that are genuinely locally agreed.

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats have set out a clear plan for how the Government should step up and recruit 8,000 more GPs and free up more of their time, including by:

  • Increasing training places for GPs and medical school places across the country.
  • Fixing the broken NHS pension rules to help experienced GPs stay in the profession.
  • Giving more prescribing rights and public health advisory services to qualified pharmacists, nurse practitioners and appropriately trained paramedics.
  • Empowering GPs to spend more of their budgets as they see fit by removing top-down bureaucracy.

Medway Maritime Hospital has been at OPEL 4 escalation levels since August, resulting in a critical incident in December, due to patient numbers. We will campaign to reopen wards in Medway Maritime Hospital to be used as for overflow beds, others spaces within the hospital should return to being fully utilised for the provision of services as necessary.

Rural healthcare

The rural population is increasing around Medway, but they do not have access to the same range of services as the urban conurbations without having to travel. In addition, Medway's rural areas currently lack adequate public transport which is a barrier to access. Healthcare must be delivered to people covering primary health care and community health services. Secondary, specialist and social care must also be delivered, from emergency survival (eg: stroke care) to the convenient delivery of routine services. The changing dynamics of the rural population, such as increases through new development, alters the needs of health care in the areas affected.

Medway Liberal Democrats will focus on securing health improvement and better community services for Medway's rural areas. The solutions to these issues need to ensure a balance between quality, access and costs to meet the needs of Medway's rural population safely and effectively. We will ensure that standards and outcomes shall be adequately and equitably delivered. Some services, for cost reasons, are commissioned in centralised hubs. This includes a range of pathology and screening tests and other services. The issues affecting rural communities must be an integral part of the design and consultation phases when the locations of these services are reviewed. We will commission a report into an understanding of Medway's rural health needs and how solutions can be delivered.

We shall encourage services to be brought closer to rural communities, targeted at vulnerable groups such as older people, those with disabilities or without transport. Changes to the provision of health care shall be delivered in a cost-effective manner that improves access to services. An Integrated Community Transport and Appointments System shall enable people to get timely access to appointments.

We shall work with partners to develop a strong network of community transport services, to ensure that local people have safe, reliable, convenient and efficient access when needed. We shall develop and integrate systems to provide better access to services whether through better transport, IT or outreach. We will ensure that the Clinical Commissioning Group make the necessary changes to health care provision.

Mental health provision

Mental health problems are on the increase, with a rising demand on services and increasing complexity of needs. Medway is incredibly challenged in terms of demand, capacity, and resourcing. Groups who have higher levels of mental health problems include refugees, asylum seekers, veterans, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT), looked after children, and some Asian, black and ethnic minority groups. In addition, Kent and Medway are one of eight communities singled out by the Government as "worst affected by suicide and remains above the national average". 7% of children have attempted suicide by the age of 17 and almost one in four say they have self-harmed in the past year. The numbers of children and young people seeking mental health support have risen by 50% in the past 3 years. We will commission a report into understanding the mental health needs of people in Medway.

We will launch a public health campaign - equivalent to the 'Five a Day' healthy eating campaign - that promotes the steps people can take to improve their own mental resilience.

Medway Liberal Democrats will promote good mental health in Medway's communities and look at improving mental health services. We will increase funding for mental health, so that we can deliver local and accessible mental health support for Medway.

We shall encourage provision of services to ensure those admitted to hospital for mental ill-health are able to be treated close to home for all but the most specialist mental health services. Using our knowledge and experience, we shall formulate plans to minimise the use of hospital admissions through high-quality community and housing support. We will encourage Medway Council to investigate the factors that cause mental ill-health in order to prevent or reduce illness rather than just treating the symptoms.

We are aware that 67% of people who have died from suicide were not known to secondary mental health services. There is still not a comprehensive, cross-departmental local government work-plan that prioritises clear actions on how to reach people who are not in touch with mental health services. We will work with the multi-agency steering group on strategies which can help to reduce suicide and self-harm in Kent and Medway, among adults and young people. We will reinforce and promote the findings of the strategy papers published in 2021.

Greater integration of services is essential, covering hospital in-patient care, counselling and preventative work, and a collaboration between Medway's social care, and drug teams, with the education, housing, employment and public health sectors to provide better outcomes delivered in a cost-effective manner.

Dealing with drugs

Drug related issues are on the increase, with a rising demand on services and increasing complexity of needs. Medway is incredibly challenged in terms of demand, capacity, and resourcing. There is a strong relationship between deprivation and alcohol misuse, and Medway has its share of significant deprivation. Generally, those living in deprived conditions are among the least likely to seek help for health-related issues for fear of stigmatisation. However, those living in more affluent communities will also require help. Many problem drug users need housing and employment support. We will commission a report into an understanding of drugs misuse within Medway looking at a broad spectrum of social and economic factors and recommend solutions.

We shall pursue a policy that prevents individuals who have addiction problems becoming homeless. The consequences of not doing so are increased likelihood of a wider range of needs across health, social care, drug misuse and criminal justice.

People can become homeless, or housed in temporary accommodation, for other reasons than addiction alone. This situation leads to the people being vulnerable to drug dealers. This should be treated as a health care problem and people should be offered support and assistance to treat the addiction problems.

We will focus on the social, economic and health impacts of drugs, and on effective identification of people at risk. We shall promote programmes to divert individuals who use drugs into treatment and education rather than into the criminal justice system and this will be through investment in addiction and support services.

We shall encourage robust evaluation and sharing of findings with all partners across Medway, so that people receive the right treatment, support and care.

We shall make the most of the resources available for agencies and partners to play a role in preventing and raising awareness of drug issues. We shall empower, encourage and support individuals and communities to take a more active role in preventing and reducing the harmful effects of drug misuse in Medway.

We shall encourage the foundation of Statutory Youth Clubs to prevent young people falling into drug addiction. Statutory Youth Clubs provide a provide an opportunity for life skills which not only helps to prevent drug issues, but also provides benefit in tackling other issues preventing anxiety, depression and social isolation. Youth Clubs also need cover a wider age from, ideally from 8-25 since it is often younger children that are targeted by dealers. Access provision to ensure children have as few barriers as possible is important.

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