Letter to Liberal Democrats re 2015 election manifesto

Rt Hon Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party
cc Rt Hon Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesman

Dear Mr Clegg

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. Urgent, effective, preventive action is needed, with expected benefits for personal and national health and wealth, coupled to eased pressures on the NHS.

Our concerns on reading your Manifesto are:

1.    Your Manifesto pledges to “combine the public health, adult social care and health outcome frameworks into a single national wellbeing outcomes framework to ensure the NHS and local government work together towards common goals” however you are not explicit on your common goals for public health, other than for the important goal of mental health.

2.    We welcome your Manifesto pledge to restrict the marketing of junk food to children. However we are concerned that you do not also pledge to limit these maximum levels to food marketed to adults, with instead the intention to “Encourage labelling for food products” and publication of information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content, rather than formal action to reduce the content of harmful ingredients. The evidence is that, in adults, exercise without moderation in dietary intake is much less effective in reducing and preventing obesity.

3.    While we welcome your Manifesto pledge of a levy on tobacco companies to fund health care and smoking cessation services and introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol, as long as taxation of tobacco and alcohol is used to underpin spending within general taxation, there remains the perverse incentive not to legislate as effectively as possible to ban use of tobacco and maintain alcohol consumption within safe limits.

4.    Your current pledge to “Keep public health within local government” risks inequitable ‘postcode’ approaches to disease prevention.

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