The Department of Health (DH) is the ministerial department of the Government of United Kingdom and is responsible for setting up policies on social care and health issues in the United Kingdom. It oversees the English National Health Service (NHS). The Department of Health develops guidelines for improving the care quality and meeting the expectations of the patients. Some health care and social care policies have been put in place for improving the quality of the lives of the people, and the changes that they have brought have been significant (Valderas, Fitzpatrick and Roland, 2012). The present writing discusses the development of the welfare of the state and explores the development of health policy in reference to influential factors, that is, ethics, law, culture and religion, economics and politics.
The closer integration of social care and health care has topped the priority goal for policies of successive governments of the United Kingdom for over 50 years. Several financial and policy tools have been taken up, but the overall progress has been found to be limited and patchy. This attributes to a variety of reasons that includes culture differences, dissimilar ways of working, accountability arrangements, funding and different regulatory regimes for assessing the performance of the organizations present to look after the health and social welfare of the people of the country. Attempts have been made to ensure that people get access to the right services at the right time and the right place. Successive governments in the last few decades have used several measures to bring reforms in health and social care. The financial crash, taking place in 2008 and election of 2010 has steered the interests of policy makers towards the need of integrated care and making of this aspect as the foundation for further policies (Humphries, 2015). Some influencing factors make a great impact on the development of health and social care policy in the country. How such influence occurs is a topic of concern, and it would be a good idea to throw light on this aspect.
The first aspect that draws attention in context to health policies is ethics. Ethical considerations make up a large part of the debate regarding what new incorporation needs to be made in the new health care policies. Chief in between these is tension between collective welfare or collectivism and individual choices. Such tensions are found to be in many debates cropping up in the field of health care services, like end of life, reproductive technology and health inequalities. With each passing year, health care professionals are facing new ethical dilemmas while delivering health care services. New policies in health care are being set up in England keeping in mind not to get into any controversy regarding maintenance of ethics (nuffieldtrust.org.uk, 2015).
Legal aspects come second in the list of influential factors. In the United Kingdom, medical device legislation and clinical safety directives impact the solutions adhered to for brining changes in health policies. Healthcare regulators are in the need for more information to provide a license to the care providers (Gostin and Sridhar, 2014).
Social issues make up a significant point in the context of health policies in the United Kingdom. In the western countries, there is a great influence of social concerns on health conditions as a whole. For example, an increase in health conditions like obesity and diabetes, along with an aeging population has a marked impact. There is an irresistible desire to deliver integrated care. This refers to the integration of delivery of care, like coordination of care, self-care, home care and care scheduling. Genuine healthcare business issues need to be solved immediately. Policies are made on the basis of the urgency to combine financial, clinical and administrative information (Bleich et al. 2012).
Economics of the country is not far behind in making an impact on health policies. The economy of Europe is one of the recession or low growth sectors for the future. Therefore, there is less requirement for big government IT contracts. On the other hand, IT is taken up as the means of making efficiency savings. The looming ‘information strategy’ from the Department of Health has chances of stressing this. All trusts in the country are finding it difficult to have an adequate control over costs. An estimation has been made that the total health IT that is spent in the country would reach to nearly 3 billion dollars by the year 2016, and it would be a 12% increase from what the situation was in the year 2010. Therefore, policies are made keeping this aspect in mind (Sandford, 2014).
Next comes the need of focusing on political issues. There is a new coalition Government in the country that has committed to cut public spending (Lowndes and Pratchett, 2012). Thus, policies are reset for reducing cost.
Lastly, attention needs to be given on religious and cultural influence on health policies. He influence of religion on healthcare has a long history. It has gained more prominence recently. Formulation of health care policies is surely underscored by several tensions regarding the features of the state, democracy and the impact of religion. There are no means of escaping the fact that religion requires people following a certain faith to access to particular health care services. The health issues that has gained attention in the context of religious beliefs are mental health and women care. Special attention needs to be given while making policies on such health issues (nef-europe.org, 2015).
For a better understanding of the impact of influential factors on health policies, it would be a good idea to discuss the Health and Social care Act 2012. This Act was taken up for safeguarding the needs of the NHS to meet the challenges faced by it. This Act puts clinicians at the focus of commissioning, gives chance to innovate and empowered patient, thereby giving a new focus to public health. There are several factors that have influenced the change made in the policy. The rising demand for healthcare services and treatment costs is the most important influential factor. The constant need for bringing improvement in health care comes next in line. Public finances had made a considerable issue. The government had protected the NHS budget, thereby giving rise to a tight funding settlement while making the Act. Important legislative changes have been noticed in the Act. These include Clinically led commissioning, Provider Regulation to support innovative services, Greater voice for patients, New focus of public health, Greater accountability locally and nationally and Streamlined arms-length bodies (gov.uk, 2015).
In conclusion, it can be said that brining changes in health and social policies is not an easy task and several barriers coming from the political, social and economic field makes a mark in influencing such policies in modern times in the United Kingdom. Policymakers must consider all the factors for brining significant changes in policies so that the aim of delivering the highest quality of care to the people of the country is fulfilled.
Bleich, S.N., Jarlenski, M.P., Bell, C.N. and LaVeist, T.A., 2012. Health inequalities: trends, progress, and policy. Annual review of public health, 33, p.7.
Gostin, L.O. and Sridhar, D., 2014. global health and the Law. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(18), pp.1732-1740.
gov.uk, (2015). [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/138257/A1.-Factsheet-Overview-240412.pdf [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].
Humphries, R. (2015). Integrated health and social care in England – Progress and prospects. Health Policy, 119(7), pp.856-859.
Lowndes, V. and Pratchett, L., 2012. Local governance under the coalition government: Austerity, localism and the ‘Big Society’. Local government studies, 38(1), pp.21-40.
nef-europe.org, (2015). [online] Available at: https://www.nef-europe.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/NEF-RelDem-RELIGION-HEALTHCARE-Final.pdf [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].
nuffieldtrust.org.uk, (2015). [online] Available at: https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/sites/files/nuffield/publication/policy-futures-9-ethics-dec99.pdf [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].
Sandford, C.T., 2014. Economics of public finance: an economic analysis of government expenditure and revenue in the United Kingdom. Elsevier.
Valderas, J.M., Fitzpatrick, R. and Roland, M., 2012. Using health status to measure NHS performance: another step into the dark for the health reform in England. BMJ quality & safety, 21(4), pp.352-353.
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