Letter to Conservatives re 2015 election manifesto

Rt Hon David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party
cc Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Conservative Party Health Spokesman

Dear Mr Cameron

I am writing to you on behalf of our healthy heart charity. We do not wish to take a party political view and are therefore writing to all party leaders to ask about your respective party’s commitment to improving public health approaches to preventing serious disorders of the heart and circulation: these cause ~half of adult deaths in the UK.

We are writing now, having considered how your manifesto addresses this issue, and in the light of the fresh report from the Economist Intelligence Unit on the low UK ranking for standardized health spend and doctors per 1000 population compared with many benchmark international economies (https://data.oecd.org).

Despite efforts of your and recent administrations, the UK faces an increasing epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other serious disorders linked to preventable risk of heart and circulatory disease.

Our concerns from reading your Manifesto are:

1.    In the Conservative Manifesto, explicit support for public health (the only place the term is used) is limited to local authority budgets – recently reduced – and at risk of inequitable ‘postcode’ approaches to disease prevention.

2.    The Manifesto largely appears to consider the NHS as a national sickness service. While dealing with illness is clearly vital, parallel increased urgent, effective, preventive action against cardiovascular disease is needed, with expected benefits for personal and national health and wealth, coupled to eased NHS pressures.

3.    There appears no focus in the Manifesto on adult public health – other than encouraging those with ‘a condition’ to remain in or return to work.

4.    We welcome your Manifesto pledge to “invest more in primary care, to help prevent health problems before they start”.  However primary care services are under increasing pressure to be where most chronic disease management is undertaken. Primary care has little capacity to support prevention of heart disease in the currently healthy or asymptomatic general population with undiagnosed conditions (especially hypertension, raised cholesterol, diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease) that predispose to cardiovascular disease.

Gains from effective public health measures can be very rapid and often well within the lifetime of a particular administration, for example, the 20% reduction in heart attack rates within one year of introducing a compulsory ban on smoking in public places.

We therefore ask what actions your party proposes in support of a national, effective public health approach to prevent heart disease through better public awareness within both children and adults of what causes heart disease, why to bother to change behavior, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease, and how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

These efforts will help both to prevent serious heart and circulatory conditions, as well as other serious disorders, including cancer, joint disease, and common forms of dementia.

Yours sincerely

Cardiovascular Research Trust