News

Doctors opposed to NHS reforms set up a new political party

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e3734 (Published 25 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3734
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

A group of doctors and public health experts, disillusioned by the government’s changes to the NHS, are setting up a new political party because they don’t think that any of the existing parties defend the health service effectively and they want a more prominent voice.

The National Health Action Party is the idea of the oncologist Clive Peedell, who ran 260 km in six days from Aneurin Bevan’s statue in Cardiff to the Department of Health headquarters in London earlier this year to protest against the Health and Social Care Bill and NHS privatisation.1

He will lead the party jointly with the former MP Richard Taylor, a retired consultant who won a seat in the House of Commons in 2001 as an independent, campaigning for Kidderminster Hospital to retain its accident and emergency facilities. Taylor lost the seat in 2010 to the Conservative Mark Garnier.

Speaking to the BMJ, Taylor said that voters needed “an alternative to the Tories” and were “disillusioned by the Liberal Democrats” and that “Labour doesn’t seem much better,” because it effectively started the current reforms with its rush towards privatisation. He did not, however, rule out his party working with Labour in the future if it could develop the right ideology for the NHS.

Taylor emphasised that the party would do more than just criticise and would come up with “positive plans about what ought to happen in the NHS.”

As an MP Taylor sat on the Commons health select committee that in 2009-10 investigated three important issues—patients’ safety, commissioning, and value for money in the NHS—and produced reports on two of them. “These told the government everything it needed to do to improve the health service, emphasising patient safety and getting better value for money,” he said.

Taylor predicted that the new party’s manifesto would follow the recommendations of these investigations and that, in terms of the current NHS changes, the party might, if necessary, push to “reverse a number of things.” He added that the problems in the NHS started with the invention of the internal market in the 1990s and the split between commissioners and providers. And he pointed to a report that the Department of Health had been “too scared to publish,” mentioned in the select committee’s report on commissioning, which said that the cost of administrating commissioning amounted to 14% of the NHS budget.

The party had opted to avoid having NHS in its title because it did not want to be considered a single issue party. Taylor said that the word health encompassed more than just medical services, covering social care and the health of the nation in economic and social terms, and that the party would have policies on a wide range of issues.

The party intends to field several candidates at the next general election, which is due to be held by May 2015. If its success mirrors that of the Independent Community and Health Concern Party, which champions local issues in Taylor’s old constituency of Wyre Forest and of which Taylor is life president, it could do well. At the last local elections in May that party polled more votes in the area than any other party and won three new seats on the district council, bringing its total to eight.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3734

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