Defending the NHS, Promoting Healthy Choices

Since its establishment the NHS has provided free and accessible health care to all, and this principle is a source of considerable pride. Yet it has come under relentless attack by both Labour and Conservative governments. The Greens believe that the health service must remain public – the current creeping privatisation through PFI and outsourcing must be halted.

Much of the political debate on health is actually concerned with delivering services to those who become ill. While these healthcare services are vitally important, they will continue to come under immense pressure as society’s expectations rise and our health problems get worse.

The promotion of good health has been neglected over the years, and we need much more emphasis on preventative medicine and on eradicating threats to health, such as toxic chemicals, from our environment. We must support people in making healthier choices, not just provide a sickness service to treat the problems caused by chronic national ill-health. To tackle this we need greater support for services such as health visitors, as well as the range of community organisations working to promote good health, such as community food projects or mental health support groups.

A long-term health strategy can be effective only if there is a co- ordinated approach across all government departments since decisions taken in other policy areas have a significant bearing on public health. Greens will ensure that all policies are ‘health-proofed’.

Sport and physical activity make an important contribution to health and happiness. However public sports facilities and green spaces have been lost all over the country, and many are still under threat. This erosion must end, and Scotland’s recreational spaces should be given much stronger protection, especially green spaces and playing fields, which provide a vital resource for spontaneous and informal sporting activities.