On the ‘Remoralisation’ of Health Policy – Conference Summary

John Coggon

In August 2007, at a meeting in Cardiff organised by Andrew Edgar and Stephen Pattison, it was decided that some forum was needed to allow all parties interested in UK health policy and its direction to meet and discuss their concerns, with a view to changing things for the better.

At that meeting, Angus Clarke, Derek Sellman, and I agreed to organise a conference, which would be hosted at the University of Manchester. This would launch the group, under the thought-demanding name “Think About Health.”

To fit as broadly as possibly with the matters discussed at the Cardiff meeting, we decided to make the theme of the conference “The Remoralisation of Medicine”. To reflect the backgrounds of those who we believed would be interested in the group, we invited eminent speakers whose work directly affects health policy, but in different ways and from different perspectives.

Harald Schmidt is Assistant Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and has previously worked with the European Parliament and in the German Ministry of Health. At the conference, he spoke about the Nuffield Council’s recently published report on ethical issues raised by Public Health policy.

Jonathan Montgomery is professor in health care law at Southampton University, as well as being Chair of the Hampshire Primary Care Trust, and a member of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee. He gave a talk on the underlying theme of the conference, which overlapped very naturally with important aspects of his recent academic research.

Baroness Ilora Finlay, professor at Cardiff University, consultant in palliative medicine and chronic pain, and President of the Royal Society of Medicine, spoke about end of life care. This is one of many areas of policy with which she has been very actively engaged, and her perspectives both as a clinician and a member of the Upper House of Parliament are thus extremely interesting.

We were delighted to have such prestigious speakers at the Conference, and their talks predictably led to lively and interesting debate. In order to advance the group, further to the lecture sessions, we had a session dedicated to the group’s future.

Andrew Edgar had circulated a draft Constitution, which was the launch pad for this discussion. In the end, it became clear that the shape, scope, and direction of Think About Health, possibly renamed, would need to be agreed after further time. It was thus decided that this would be a matter to revisit at the following meeting of the group.

And so we see how the group is starting to develop, and the nature of the challenge facing it at its next conference in Birmingham. I very much look forward to taking part in this meeting, and seeing the group expand and advance as it brings together a large and sometimes disparate community of people with shared concerns, if distinct perspectives.