Saturday, 11 June 2011

Get Involved

Politics affects all our lives whether we want it to or not. As diabetics we have to be even more aware of government policy than others as the amount of money committed to research and treatment is going to be directly reliant on the amount of pressure that can be brought to bear on which ever government we elect. It’s estimated the NHS will have to save between £15 – 20bn over the next three years, so money is going to be tight.

It might be that politics is not your thing, and the MPs expenses scandal has put you right off all of them, but this is missing the point. Politics for me is just like self-management of my diabetes: if I want to influence my blood sugar levels I have to do something about it; if I want to take an HBa1c test I have to book it in myself; and if I want the next government to make diabetes a priority then I have to act on that too.

Diabetes UK are running a campaign to email your Parliamentary candidate, you can find out how in the ‘get involved’ section of this website. So if you are reading this I implore you to do so. I did and it took about 90 seconds – and I personalised my letter to suggest the candidates look at my own manifesto published in my last blog post – it’s the narcissistic streak the gets me writing this thing in the first place!

As diabetics who self manage our condition you might say we are predisposed to being more active politically. Many people go through life expecting things to be done for them. Diabetics quickly learn that we have to do it for ourselves, although with a little support. We have to learn about food, the disease itself and how to live with it, we have to push our doctors and nurses, employers and family to recognise the condition we are living with and we have to take action to make the changes we need to make. The same applies to politics.

I’ve looked through the manifestos of the parties and I’ve seen three key things, a commitment to public health, tackling chronic diseases in the community and a desperate need to save money. The good news is that treating people in the community and increased self management is a fantastic way of saving money. It means that as people become better at managing their condition they stay out of hospital – which costs the NHS less.

However the flip side of less people being admitted is they don’t need as many hospital beds and so wards get closed. We have a strange situation in this country where we automatically think closing wards is a bad thing. I would argue that if done for the right reasons – the quality of care is not up to standard or there just aren’t as many people being admitted – closing wards is a very good thing.

The Lib Dem’s declare in their manifesto that more people should be treated in the community and that no more departments should be closed. Doesn’t that mean loads of empty beds and nurses underutilised? That said I’m writing this after the first election debate where Clegg did really well. So I am confused about who to vote for, but that is separate from the fact that I want to influence whom ever gets elected to push diabetes to the top of their health agendas.

I believe everyone should vote. I worry that a lack of people turning out to vote will lead to extremist parties getting elected on tiny, unrepresentative levels of voting. So I would encourage everyone to vote. But, just as important is that we get our voices heard by all of the prospective Parliamentary candidates. Once they are elected, and deliberating on future policy or chatting in the lobbies with senior ministers, we want diabetes to be in their thoughts. Please do get involved.

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