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Health debate: New Statesman and Pfizer host special debate

“Taking Care of Health” forum brings together the politicians Andy Burnham, Norman Lamb and Mark Sim

In the latest of a series of influential debates and special reports, the New Statesman, in collaboration with Pfizer, has put together a Policy Forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing those working in health care in the UK.

On our panel we have Andy Burnham (Secretary of State for Health), Mark Simmonds (shadow health minister, Conservative Party) and Norman Lamb (shadow spokesperson for health, Liberal Democrats). They are joined by the writer and broadcaster Ed Stourton, a founder journalist on Channel 4 News and presenter of Radio 4's Today programme.

Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, wants to ask each representative what his plans are, if he were to become secretary of state for health after the election, to use the 2010 Olympics to improve the health of children in the UK.

Zack Cooper, health economist at the London School of Economics, says:

The NHS is one of the only health systems in the world that is free at the point of use. Every shred of evidence suggests that if users don't have to pay, people will consume more health care and worry less about their individual health. Do you agree? And how can the NHS make individuals more conscious of their own lifestyle choices and be aware that health-care resources are finite?

Deborah Alsina of Bowel Cancer UK says: "In the current difficult economic climate, preventing cancer from developing not only saves lives, but also makes good financial sense . . . I would like to know from each speaker what steps their party will take to incorporate the [flexible sigmoidoscopy] test into the current bowel screening programmes as part of a strategy to prevent cancer."

And Louise Kirsh, parliamentary officer for Mind, wants to find out more about plans to tackle the stigma and discrimination "that affects nine out of ten people with mental health problems".

"Taking Care of Health" will also feature representatives from organisations including Civitas, Bupa and Macmillan Cancer Support, and takes place today from 2pm at Bishop Partridge Hall in Westminster.

An extended editorial feature covering the debate will be published online with the New Statesman issue of Monday 10 May.