Health advocacy is an important topic which can be extremely beneficial for many patients (both NHS and private) in time of need when dealing with medical issues. Heath advocates are trained individuals who can help patients understand their medical conditions and be a voice for them when discussing such matters with medical professions like a doctor. Quite often, individuals can be overwhelmed with the complexity of their medical situation and are not sure what the choices are for them going forward and which one(s) are best for them.
Unfortunately, BAME groups, women, transgender and young people are disproportionately more likely to me dismissed by health professionals. Therefore, health advocacy can be vital in helping to address this imbalance. This has not been helped by the chronic underfunding of the NHS by the Tories over the past 13-years, which has emphasised these medical inequalities even further. Examples of where health advocacy is required include:
- Those with mental health conditions often have their other health concerns quashed.
- Endometriosis – can take ~8 years to diagnose as not taken seriously by GPs (Ghah et al., 2020).
- Menopause care – patients often feel more informed than their doctors and have to convince them to receive proper care.
- Black people are five times as likely to suffer complications during pregnancy (Knight et al., 2019).
Therefore, to help try and tackle this issue and raise awareness, Emily Pownall (CLP LGBT+ Officer – at the time) circulated a motion (July 2022) at a CLP Members’ meeting to go forward to the Labour Party Conference in September 2022. The key aims of the motions were that our CLP calls for:
- Health advocates available upon request at all GP surgeries to reduce waiting times, ‘passing around’ of patients and increase diagnostic quality for those who do not feel educated or confident enough to advocate for themselves.
- Universally available Doulas, free at the point of use, who offer pregnancy and labour support for patients. They have been shown to reduce the length of labour, decrease the need for caesareans and decrease the need for strong painkillers.
- Appropriate training available for potential Doulas and Health Advocates and a formal regulatory body to oversee them.
In the end, the motion was passed by the CLP (the meeting was quorum) and was submitted to the Labour Party Conference. While the motion is considered by the wider Labour Party (e.g. the National Policy Forum etc.), the content of this motion has been shared here as blog on the CLP website as this is an important issue which the public need to be made aware of. Hopefully, come the next general election, the content of this motion will have made it into the Labour Party manifesto and in the meantime, our CLP can improve awareness of the importance of Health Advocates at the constituency level.
Ghah, V., et al. 2020. Diagnostic delay for superficial and deep endometriosis in the United Kingdom. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 40 (1), 83-89, doi: 10.1080/01443615.2019.1603217.
Knight, M., et al. 2019. Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care. MBRRACE-UK. Available at: https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/assets/downloads/mbrrace-uk/reports/MBRRACE-UK%20Maternal%20Report%202019%20-%20WEB%20VERSION.pdf (accessed 10/04/2023).