NHA Party launches today

November 15, 2012 by
Blog, Health   No Comments Yet

The NHA (National Health Action) new political party launches at Westiminster today with an aim to protect the NHS, which it says ‘is currently being dismantled by the [Coalition] government’s unpopular health reforms’.

Clive Peedell with fellow doctor activist David Wilson

Co-leaders Dr Clive Peedell – interviewed first by www.underthescope.co.uk earlier this year – and Dr Richard Taylor (formerly Independent MP for Wyre Forest 2001 and 2010, elected on a Save Kidderminster Hospital banner) will be there with other health professionals and supporters, many wearing stethoscopes and scrubs. The party also intends to follow the recommendations of the Health Select Committee’s 2009/10 reports, and campaign on deprivation, housing, and public health.

Crucially they will announce the top high profile seats they intend to target at the next General Election.

 

These will be:

 

South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt)

Tatton (George Osborne)

South Cambridge (Andrew Lansley)

Witney (David Cameron)

Yeovil (David Laws)

As blogger Eion Clarke on The Green Benches says, all are areas where Labour cannot win (and in some has even stood down their candidates in the past to help independents such as Martin Bell succeed).  And for statistical reasons none are impossible. Merely threatening the incumbents will be highly embarrassing and divert campaign resources away from marginals.

Clive Peedell told me last May: ‘The NHS almost defines Britishness these days; it is a huge part of the social fabric of this country. It is how we care for one another – once you start to take that apart, you lose what society is about. And yet we are seeing it being dismantled without any democratic mandate. Remember at the last election when the Conservatives promised no top-down reorganisation, no privatisation? It is vital we get people into the House of Commons to prevent it being dismantled further and lost.’

To those who say the reforms are making no negative difference, he pointed out, ‘The changes won’t happen overnight but three, five, ten years from now the system will be completely transformed. Lots of private companies will be using the NHS logo but it won’t be completely privatised because a large chunk simply isn’t profitable so no company will want to take that on.’

Lewisham GP and prominent anti-Health Act campaigner Dr Louise Irvine, another founder of the NHA told GP today that the founders of the party felt a political challenge to the government was necessary because it seemed impervious’ to opinions expressed by the public, professionals and patients about NHS reform. ‘We are taking the fight to them – to where it hurts. They care about losing seats. We feel there should be political consequences for behaving how they did. They said they weren’t going to do anything to the NHS in the election, they covered it up and they went ahead. There need to be consequences. We don’t know if we will achieve anything, but it is worth trying.

‘We have no big donors, membership is open to everyone. We need activists and people to donate – we will build from the bottom up.’

 Dr Irvine said candidates fielded by the National Health Action Party would not necessarily be doctors.

‘We want local candidates with good local knowledge. We’d be happy for doctors to stand, or other health workers. But it could be other ordinary citizens.’

The Labour Party has not welcomed the NHA Party although clearly they share certain left-wing beliefs. In fact, many are warning that a vote for NHA will mean one fewer for Labour and is not without danger, especially as the NHA wishes to stand up to 50 candidates in the next General Election. As Colin Leys points out in the Guardian:  Some of the brightest and best of the NHS doctors who led the fight against the coalition’s health and social care bill have lost confidence that the Labour party, which founded the NHS, now has the will to save it. The new party could help to make the NHS an election issue and pose a question for Ed Miliband. He has promised that Labour “will repeal the NHS bill”, but how serious is this commitment?’

Clive’s view was: ‘Labour says it wants to repeal the Bill but we have to remember that New Labour formed the platform enabling Lansley to do what he is doing now.’

And he confirmed: ‘We’ll be analysing the most vulnerable Conservative and LibDem seats and starting there. Labour aren’t safe. There are a couple of its MPs who really sold out the NHS who should be worried.’

The NHA has promised not to field a candidate against anyone who shares its goals for the NHS. Perhaps in my ideal world, it would no longer need to to field any by 2015. But I doubt it somehow.

About the Author

Victoria Lambert has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and specialises in health and medical matters. She writes for the Telegraph, the Times, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Mail and the Mail on Sunday. She contributes to Saga, Geographical and First Eleven magazines – where she is the agony aunt.

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