Can a new political party win seats on the issue of the NHS?
The National Health Action Party has just launched, promising to field candidates at the next election, on the single issue of the NHS.The party, is made up of healthcare professionals who oppose not just the health and social care act but what they say are market-driven policies in general. David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, George Osborne, Jeremy Hunt and David Laws will be the first to have their seats contested. But should they find more candidates, they have 50 in mind where the MPs have, they say, let the NHS and patients down.
Co-leader Dr Clive Peedell, a consultant clinical oncologist, said: “David Cameron and Andrew Lansley are the main creators of market-driven health policies which are destroying the NHS.
“David Cameron has full responsibility for pushing through the Health and social care bill this year, ignoring fierce opposition from the public, the medical profession and other NHS workers.
“George Osborne is pressing ahead with incredibly damaging austerity measures, and his Treasury is taking back front-line money from the NHS. David Laws is a Liberal Democrat who does not believe in the NHS and wants to see a European-model social insurance scheme for healthcare.”
I happened to be speaking to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt the other day and I asked him if he was concerned about the new party. His answer was as you would expect. That this is the way democracy works but that he, as health secretary, was just getting on with the work at hand.
‘Obfuscating and dissembling’
But one does not have to be a keen historian to remember that voters are perfectly capable of voting on one issue, especially if that issue is the NHS and if there also happens to be a threatened local hospital closure or accident and emergency and maternity units under threat.
Dr Richard Taylor successfully stood as an independent candidate for Wyre Forest in 2001 on the issue of a local hospital closure. He is now co-leader of the NHA.
High up, though not yet confirmed, on the list of targeted seats, is also that of Paul Burstow, former Liberal Democrat health minister, and MP for Sutton and Cheam. The NHS accuses the Lib Dems of failing to act on the bill. Indeed, Dr Peedle (he is a clinical oncologist) accuses the entire coalition of ‘obfuscating and dissembling its way through the debate on market reforms’.
Mr Burstow is no longer health minister, having been replaced by Norman Lamb in the health department. And he has the added burden of a 1,600 majority which means that if the NHA puts up a candidate against him, they could constitute a real threat.
What the NHA will not do is stand in a seat where the candidate shares their views on the needs of the NHS.
Dr Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist and potential candidate, said she was involved “because if we don’t come out fighting for the NHS we are going to lose it, it’s as simple as that”.
She added: “The public are sick and tired of being lied to about health services by all three main parties. They can see we do not want the reforms to happen and are going to be the only people who can express this.”
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