Last Friday, Aparna Barua, Project Associate for the ACTION Project and coordinator of the UK Coalition to Stop TB, met with the TB Action Group (TBAG). The group was set up by TB Alert to provide a forum for those suffering from TB or affected by TB, to openly discuss their experiences. Many members have now become advocates and their latest campaign, The Truth About TB aims to raise the profile of TB amongst the UK population.
Friday night’s discussions highlighted how in the UK, the voice of patient advocates is small and difficult to amplify. It is hoped that by better communication and engagement with the UK Coalition to Stop TB, TB patient advocates will have a greater ability to engage parliamentarians in key discussions, including on the recently released white paper ‘Liberating the NHS’. This white paper sets out plans for a massive re-organisation of the health service, including the abolition of strategic health authorities and primary care trusts, the creation of an NHS Commissioning Board and the transfer of many commissioning responsibilities to GP commissioning consortia.
The proposal is that 80 per cent (£80 billion) of the NHS budget will be in the hands of GPs by 2013, who will then take over from primary care trusts and be responsible for hospital admissions, ambulance services, district nurses, physiotherapy and out-of-hours care. However they will not be responsible for public health, maternity services, pharmacy, opthalmology and dentistry. It is still not clear who will take over the rest. The white paper says local authorities will take a bigger role in public health, although there is already anger over this and concerns as to how tuberculosis will be appropriately tackled within the UK. An issue that TB Patient advocates at TBAG are keen to address!
The voice of TB patient advocates is an important one to harness, and many are best placed to provide decision makers and policy makers a direct insight, into the issues affecting delayed diagnosis, access to treatment and support. TBAG and the UK Coalition to Stop TB are looking forward to a more fruitful collaboration in the coming months in order to tackle and address the changing landscape of health services in the UK.