The National Health Action Party launched its general election campaign today with 13 candidates and a call to the public to vote not just for the NHS but for the sort of society they want to live in.
Founded less than three years ago, the Party brings together doctors, nurses, paramedics, NHS staff and ordinary members of the public who are fighting the Coalition government's disastrous NHS "reforms" and are determined to change the direction of travel of the NHS: away from privatisation and under-funding and back to the fair and equitable public institution that consistently tops the list of things that make us feel proud to be British.
The NHA Party will be fielding 13 candidates at the general election which, NHA co-founder Dr Clive Peedell says is “not just about the NHS but the kind of society we want to live in.”
With the NHS at the top of the political agenda, and with every party now clamouring to portray themselves as the NHS's new best friend, the National Health Action Party wants electors to know just how far that is from the truth.
The 13 candidates are standing primarily against prominent Coalition MPs and ministers; two are challenging sitting Labour MPs and the NHA has candidates in the politically-charged constituency of Stafford and in the 5th most marginal seat in the country, Oxford West & Abingdon.
NHA Party candidates gathered at Westminster today accompanied by a campaign “ambulance” that will be travelling around the country. First stop will be South West Surrey, where Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is facing GP Dr Louise Irvine – this time at the ballot box, after losing spectacularly to her in the courts over his plans to downgrade facilities at Lewisham Hospital.
Co-founder of the Party Dr Richard Taylor, already twice elected as an MP, will again stand under the banner of Independent Community & Health Concern, which is affiliated to the NHA Party.
Dr Peedell, a cancer specialist and running against David Cameron in Witney, said:
"We have a small number of high-quality candidates, committed, passionate and knowledgeable about the NHS. We and they are fighting to give the NHS a voice in Parliament that is free from party political point-scoring and misguided assumptions about what we can and can't afford. Our focus is on what’s best for people, not politicians or political parties. The current spectacle of political parties trying to outbid each other with last-minute NHS bribes to voters is unedifying and I'm sure the public won't fall for it.
“But our fight goes much broader than that. It's what Michael Sheen has been so eloquently talking about over recent days - and it's why his comments have hit such a public nerve.
“Our bigger fight is about the sort of society we want to live in. The way a society delivers its healthcare reflects the values and nature of that society and the people who live in it. The way our political leaders are behaving, fawning to the nasty voices in our society, is moving us towards a society based on fear and self-interest. We don't believe the majority of people want this sort of society. They want a society based on fairness, equality of opportunity and compassion.
“This can’t be achieved until the austerity agenda pursued by this government is abandoned. Austerity is a recipe for widening wealth and health inequality and is leading to the fracturing of our society. We must fight to reverse this destructive trend which disproportionately punishes the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
“Of course we are realistic about our chances and to get even one MP poses a monumental challenge. But if we did succeed in getting one or two MPs, it would be a huge victory for people power and it would send a crucially important message about the future direction of our NHS, our society and our country. “
Dr Richard Taylor said:
"I'm living proof that people are willing to put health first in an election. There's been much childish debate about 'weaponising' the NHS. The only weapon anyone should be talking about is the ballot box. That's the ultimate weapon for ordinary people. They must use the ballot box to punish the government and send a strong message to all parties that they've had enough of our NHS being run down and sold off.
“The prospect of a hung Parliament could put MPs who are independent of the main parties in a very powerful position whoever forms the next government."
The NHA Party general election candidates and quotes from the campaign launch
- Dave Ash – Sutton and Cheam: technical manager, founder member of Keep our St Helier Hospital, challenging former Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow: "I have been campaigning for several years to Save St Helier Hospital in particular, and the NHS in general. When the opportunity to stand for the NHA presented itself, I saw it as my moral duty to do so, especially as my local MP, Paul Burstow was such a key player in the passing of the highly destructive Health and Social Care Act 2012. I simply could not stand by and do nothing to oppose it."
- Roseanne Edwards – Banbury: health journalist, Save Horton General campaigner: “The people of north Oxfordshire deserve a sound alternative to the dangerous Tory sell-off of our NHS and destruction of public services. Labour is promising only a slower rate of ruin and UKIP is worse than them all. We intend to let people know there ARE workable alternatives; we have the policies and we want people to vote for them.”
- Rik Evans – Truro and Falmouth: businessman, ex-vice chair of Royal Cornwall NHS Trust, resigned over privatisation of NHS services: “As a Cornish health campaigner for 30 years I am appalled by the race for privatisation of our health services by this Tory/ Lib Dem Government. We now have the best opportunity since 1974 to finally get a strong passionate voice in parliament for the Truro & Falmouth constituency.” (not able to attend the launch but issued statement)
- Rebecca Fox - Camberwell & Peckham: cancer charity project manager; campaigning for reopening of emergency clinic at Maudsley Hospital, challenging Harriet Harman: “I'm standing because the NHS is the thing that makes us most proud to be British, yet politicians are destroying it through expensive reorganisations with no evidence of benefit. I'm standing against Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman because Labour are also on the hook for the mess that MPs are making of our NHS. Labour's weak opposition to the Coalition's disastrous Health and Social Care Act has let down the whole country. There's never been a more important election for our health service.” (not able to attend the launch)
- Dr Bob Gill – Old Bexley & Sidcup: Sidcup GP, campaigning against downgrading of Queen Mary's Hospital.: “My daily experiences as a doctor remind me of the decline unfolding in our NHS as a direct result of marketisation and privatisation. It’s clear to me that our elected politicians are engaged in a gross betrayal, seen locally in the harsh impact on my patients’ live caused by the downgrading of Queen Mary's Hospital.” (not able to attend the launch)
- Dr Paul Hobday – Maidstone and The Weald: local GP for over 30 years, campaigning against downgrading of Maidstone Hospital: "As the NHA candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, I'm the only one who can honestly claim to be fighting to prevent further services from disappearing from our District General Hospital. The candidates from the other main parties all believe in commercialising the NHS which is incompatible with saving Maidstone Hospital. They can't have it both ways and are being hypocritical. Only NHA Party policies can save our local services."
- Karen Howell – Stafford: former nurse, health visitor and charity worker for the elderly,founder of Support Stafford Hospital campaign: “As organiser of a march in Stafford, when 50,000 people came out to support their hospital and staff, the politicians did not listen, so I am standing to make sure our voice is heard loud and clear in Parliament. I will continue fighting for vital services to be reinstated at Stafford Hospital for our community health and social needs and to protect the NHS and other public services, ending austerity cuts which are affecting the poor, vulnerable and young people in our society.”
- Dr Louise Irvine – South West Surrey: Lewisham GP, chair of Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, founder member of NHA Party, BMA council member, challenging Jeremy Hunt: “The people of South West Surrey have a unique and symbolic opportunity to vote out the Health Secretary who has presided over the government’s mismanagement of our NHS and implemented an unmandated, wasteful and distracting top down reorganisation, creeping privatisation and funding restrictions; and vote in someone who is dedicated to defending the NHS and representing their best interests.”
- Dr John Lamport - Nottingham East: junior doctor, survived cancer as a teenager, challenging Labour's Chris Leslie: “As a cancer survivor and a junior doctor, it saddens me that the standard of care which saved my life is no longer available to my patients because of cuts, privatisation and mismanagement of the NHS budget. Sadly, all three major parties are equally guilty of this. As a doctor, it’s my job to stick up for my patients and that's what I'm doing now.”
- Dr Clive Peedell – Witney: consultant cancer specialist, founder and co-leader of NHA Party, BMA council member, chair of NHS Consultants' Association, challenging David Cameron.
- Dr Helen Salisbury - Oxford West & Abingdon: Oxford GP, teaches Oxford University medical students, challenging Tory incumbent with a majority of 176 in the 5th most marginal seat: “I'm standing for the National Health Action Party in Oxford because I am so worried about the under-funding and break-up of our health service. The NHS is the bedrock of a just and decent society where all receive equal care - and it is under threat. The medical students and junior doctors I teach do not want their future to be in multinational healthcare corporations but in the NHS, publically provided, free and fair.”
- Dr Richard Taylor – Wyre Forest - former MP and member of Health Select Committee, founder and co-leader of NHA Party, campaigned to stop the downgrade of Kidderminster Hospital.
- Dr Carl Walker – East Worthing & Shoreham: Brighton University psychologist, co-founder of campaign group Psychologists against Austerity, successfully campaigned to stop BUPA contract for musculoskeletal services in West Sussex: "I am standing for the National Health Action Party in order that people have a candidate that they can count on to fight against the local and national privatisation of our NHS. The people of East Worthing and Shoreham have seen first-hand the disastrous attempts to sell-off their local health services and on May 7th they can let this coalition government know how they feel about it." (not able to attend the launch)
Notes to editors
The NHA Party now boasts nearly five thousand members, 65,000 Twitter followers and has been ranked the most Facebook-engaged political party.
The Party says it’s making a stand against creeping NHS privatisation, under-funding, and disastrous reforms, recently condemned by a leading health think-tank as "damaging and distracting” and dismissed even by Tory insiders as “unintelligible gobbledygook".
NHA candidates are calling for the implementation of the NHS Reinstatement Bill; a halt to NHS privatisation; a moratorium on local A&E and hospital closures and an end to flat-line NHS funding and service cuts. The Party is also highlighting the need for increased provision for General Practice and Mental Health. It opposes the damaging Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Party says public health and wellbeing must be a priority of all policies. It demands an end to austerity policies; new measures to tackle the housing crisis; a more accountable EU and parliamentary reform that will stop conflicts of interest corrupting MPs' decision-making.
The NHA Party is regularly quoted in the media, from the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the Independent, to the Spectator, New Statesman and Huffington Post. NHA spokespeople have appeared on a range of TV and radio programmes including BBC TV Six & 10 o’clock news, ITV news, the Today programme, The World at One, PM, the BBC News Channel, BBC Daily and Sunday Politics shows, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky News, 5live, You & Yours, LBC, The World Tonight and numerous local BBC radio stations. You can check these all out here: http://nhap.org/nha-in-the-news/. Even Russell Brand is talking about the NHA Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLowOw8pIY0&sns=fb (6:40 in).
NHA Party's Action Plan for the NHS: http://nhap.org/action-plan/
NHA Party policies: http://nhap.org/our-policies-1/