As a health professional who has worked as part of a multi-professional team in the NHS I have respect for my colleagues who have announced they’re to create their own party, and take their fight against Lib Dem and Tory MPs to the ballot box. The events I have witnessed as a pharmacist tell me the Coalition’s health care reforms are having a devastating effect on the NHS and on patient care. The healthcare professionals’ campaign is gathering momentum and offers a serious threat to some Coalition MPs if their parties’ opinion poll ratings continue to slide.
Standing NHS candidates in the next general election is a bold move. If done in the right way against the right targets they can create awareness of the Coalition’s destruction of the NHS right up to 2015.
For example, can it be right that the Foreign Secretary is to speak against local health reorganisation in his constituency just weeks after his government rammed through unwanted reorganisation affecting the entire country? This shameful hypocrisy needs highlighting by as many people as possible.
I recognise that the NHS candidates’ intention is to do maximum harm to the Coalition. Irrespective of Lord Ashcroft’s research on their electoral prospects, a slate of health professionals will be taken seriously and will do damage to the Conservatives election prospects.
However, even the health professionals involved recognise the risk of standing indiscriminately in different seats, and how that could prove counterproductive. They’re investigating the impact of standing as a slate in marginal constituencies and are considering the formation of pacts with other pro-NHS parties; so as not to create a Conservative majority by default, of the nature Lord Ashcroft hypothesised.
There remains plenty of time for the NHS candidates to decide how to cause most embarrassment to the government without inadvertently returning them to power. The rumoured 240 candidates can pick their seats, pick their fights, and help eliminate self-serving Lib Dem and Tory MPs through their campaign.
The welcome rise of Labour in the opinion polls over the past week has been accompanied by a rise in the ‘others’ category. The rise in the ‘others’ could be attributed to the NHS candidates. If so, long may these trends continue, the Labour party and healthcare professionals can work in partnership to save the NHS at the next election. However, the NHS candidates must be mindful not to damage the original NHS party as they gather momentum and build their following.
The Labour Party is the NHS party – with the healthcare affiliations and the national appeal to overturn the coalition at the first-time of asking. It created the NHS, it made record investment in the NHS, and it plans to repeal the bill that has incensed healthcare professionals like me. If Andy Burnham’s plan to scrub the Health and Social Care Act from the statute book is to succeed then it will need a Labour government to do so.
We shouldn’t dismiss or ignore the NHS slate’s campaign, but if voters value the NHS and want to see it rescued from the Coalition the reality is there is only one prescription – vote Labour.
Dr Tristan Learoyd is a registered Pharmacist, an elected member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and a Labour & Co-operative Councillor in Redcar.