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Back to Basics in Health in Advanced Countries Now

Clearly a new wind is blowing across in three key advanced countries, UK, Australia and USA.

People are sick, literally and metaphorically, one might say. The market-oriented policies pursued by the respective governments seem to have failed the people in a big way, nearly sparking off a major healthcare crisis. The powers-that-be are forced to reorient their strategies.

In UK health workers' unions have warmly welcomed Alan Johnson's appointment as health secretary in Gordon Brown's first cabinet and called for greater dialogue with NHS staff.

The general secretary of Unison, Dave Prentis, said the former education secretary was "someone we can do business with" and said his appointment in place of Patricia Hewitt, who announced she was stepping down, represented "a clear opportunity to make a fresh start".

Under Hewitt NHS staff have complained at the "top-down" implementation of reforms, a financial crisis led to some trusts shedding jobs and cutting back services and most recently the changes in the job application system for junior doctors led to calls for her resignation.

Following evidence in the last health commission report that hospitals were slipping in their commitment to treating patients with dignity and respect, union leaders stressed the need to improve the "patient experience".

Prentis said the new health secretary should listen more to NHS staff and "switch the focus from endless and costly reorganisations and privatisation to more compassionate, patient-centred healthcare".

Last month delegates at Unison's health workers' conference voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action, including strikes, as part of a dispute over pay. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) also announced it would ballot its members over industrial action, and members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) voted to consider holding a ballot for the first time in its 125-year history.


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