PB Account Director Melissa Barnett writes…
Summer Recess. A time that politicians, lobbyists and journalists usually breathe a sigh of relief as it signals a break from the increasingly high paced and frantic world of politics, news and Brexit.
Over the past two years our summers have dwindled – overshadowed by the unexpected General Election and the Brexit Vote. This year some politicians and some news stories have signalled a return to Silly Season, one example being last Thursday’s Mail dedicating almost all of its front page to a story about people checking their mobile phones every 12 minutes. With unexpected news headlines dragging on and a focus on where people are holidaying, I would argue that whilst the hot summer gives the pretence of a summer break with everyone in switch off mode, whilst the reality is actually far from this.
First and foremost there is Brexit, as issue that cannot be avoided. With a deal looking to be finalised by October time is ticking and prospects of a no deal grow ever closer. We all know that more work needs to be done, and quickly, and can only hope that the Government and the Prime Minister don’t put on the brakes yet again.
Whilst some claim the stories are indicative of Silly Season, the growing debates around antisemitism in the Labour Party, and Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, with other reported stories of far right hatred and intolerance being reported, I would argue that these stories are highlighting real problems that won’t go away and urgently need addressing.
For those of us in healthcare lobbying we have a new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. Whilst the furore over NHS cuts and funding have died downs somewhat over the summer the debate is simmering just below the surface. With the promised extra money, the long-awaited consultation on the Integrated Care Provider (Accountable Care Organisations) contracts from NHS England and the 10 year plan due to be published this Autumn many have high expectations over what is to come. The reality is that much of the money could well be used to deal with deficits unless it is earmarked wisely, or possibly ring-fenced. We are hearing continuing stories from patients and industry about rationing of procedures, caps and budget restraints – this will only rise unless work is done now and we can’t wait until after ‘Silly Season’ for this to take place.
So, Silly Season – do we take this at face value? Not this year, for whilst there is a moment of quiet and less activity, there are huge challenges ahead and many of the stories we are hearing coming through reflect this.