JBP Election Guide: Business and Healthcare

21 April 2015, Blog

The Business View

During the eighteen years of the Enterprise Forum’s existence, one very dull truism has been a thread through all our discussions. Through Conservative, Labour and now Coalition Government, one thing has constantly been requested from all business leaders that there be certainty in the political environment.

Certainty helps business plan, invest and deliver strategy with the knowledge and judgement that gives them the confidence to take risks. During the long periods of both Conservative and Labour Governments, business had the certainty of one party rule, with clear and decisive government.

Today, with conventional wisdom predicting the closest General Election in a generation, with no one party winning outright, on the face of it, certainty appears uncertain. It appears that no one party will have a clear lead, which will deliver outcomes that cannot be predicted, leading to a foggy political environment.

However, in the midst of this confusion, I believe that there is some hope for business. Even during the past five years of Coalition, the UK economy has grown faster than virtually all of the western economies; more people are now employed in the UK then at any point in our history; and overseas investment in the UK is also at record heights.

The reason for this is because even with political uncertainties, Britain is still one of the most stable, secure and safe places to invest anywhere in the World. Indeed, though the usual cynics predicted the Coalition would crumble back in 2010, actually it has delivered the economic stability that business craves and because of this, business has reacted with confidence and invested.

So though we may be heading to Coalition or Minority Government post-May 2015, the past five years have shown that even during uncertainty, business can deliver and do so in spades. This is because the UK has resilient institutions which can endure a lack of certainty that Coalition Government brings.

But here’s the thing, in the era where UKIP is briefly shining, is it actually helping to deliver a more European style of Coalition Government? Given UKIP’s anti- European position, it seems a delicious irony that their existence may be delivering a more European style of coalition centrist government. This then poses the question, in this era, is the new certainty which business craves actually Coalition Government? We have already had five years of coalition, will May 2015 deliver a decade of Coalition certainty?


Andrew Cumpsty is Chairman of the Enterprise Forum and Senior Counsel to JBP

Healthcare

In almost every election since its creation, the National Health Service has been a crucial issue; May 2015 won’t be any different. In the last five years, with the passage of the Health and Social Care Act, the NHS has been more political than ever and now both major parties are claiming that the other side cannot be trusted with the NHS. Both have claimed that the other side is breaking a central tenet of medicine – the injunction to “first, do no harm.”

At the same time, depending on who wins the election, reform of the health system will continue to be a major issue. In particular, all major parties have acknowledged the funding challenges that the NHS continues to face. The major plans focus on how we pay for long-term conditions and meet social care costs. Whatever the next Government, there is likely to be a move towards integration of health and social care budgets in the next parliament.

However, after many years of continual reorganisation of the NHS, the major danger to the UK health system is further reorganisation. Despite the best intentions of politicians to grapple with the challenges facing the NHS, new legislation and structural reform can create paralysis.

The NHS has historically struggled to adapt to change and finds uncertainty hard to bear. It is only now, years after the Health and Social Care Act was passed, that the health system is finally getting to grips with the new landscape for services. This has meant years of indecision and issues falling through the cracks. Management distraction has been a major challenge for the NHS for many years, and if new legislation and changes continue to impact it, this will continue. It’s impossible to say what crises or problems could have been avoided without this distraction, but as anyone working in business understands, working in a constant period of uncertainty is fundamentally unsustainable.

It takes a long time to change an organisation as vast as the NHS, and it does need change. Trying to do it all in one go, however well-meaning plans are, may do more harm than good.

Mihir Magudia is a Director of JBP based in the London office.

 

Ahead of the General Election on May 7th, we have published an election guide: Expect the Unexpected: The JBP Guide to the May 2015 General Election.

Above are two articles taken from the guide; for the full version, please click here.

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