Letter to Conservatives re 2017 General Election manifesto

Rt Hon Theresa May, Leader of the Conservative Party
cc Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Conservative Party Health Spokesperson

Dear Mrs May
The Conservative Manifesto and Cardiovascular Health of the Nation
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 party’s commitment to improving public health approaches to preventing serious disorders of the heart and circulation.

Including vascular dementia and diabetes, these cause around one in three adult deaths in the UK, ca. 4000 deaths per week, many of which are premature and avoidable [e.g. 2017 British Heart Foundation data; England and Wales, Office for National Statistics (2016) Deaths registered by cause, gender and age].

We are writing to you with our concerns and questions, having considered how your
manifesto addresses this pressing issue for national health and wealth. 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, the phrase “public health” does not feature. In your 2015 manifesto, mention of public health is limited to local authority budgets – recently reduced – and at risk of inequitable ‘postcode’ approaches to disease prevention.

2. We welcome your comments on An ageing society. “We need to respond to the reality of an ageing society, giving people security in old age and caring for those with long-term health conditions …”. However 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. We note your Manifesto pledge that you “will also continue to take action to reduce obesity and support our National Diabetes Prevention Programme.” However despite your current efforts, obesity and diabetes remain increasing national epidemics [NHS Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet England: 2017; Annual NHS Quality Outcomes Framework data for diabetes].

4. We also note your Manifesto pledge to invest in primary care and to “support more integrated working, including ensuring community pharmacies can play a stronger role to keep people healthy outside hospital within the wider health system.” However primary care services are under increasing pressure to be where most chronic disease management is undertaken and supported. 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 effective actions your party proposes in support of a national, effective public health approach to prevent heart and circulatory disease through better public awareness within both children and adults of what causes these diseases, why to bother to change behaviour, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart and circulatory 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 a number of cancers, joint disease, and common forms of dementia.
Yours sincerely

Cardiovascular Research Trust