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Why GPs should vote for the NHA Party

Dr Helen Salisbury argues that we desperately need more MPs who understand health

I have been a doctor in Oxford since 1994 and a partner in my current practice for 12 years. I run the clinical communications course for the medical students at Oxford University and do research on patient experience. So I am far too busy to take up politics. However, when I was approached by the National Health Action Party it didn’t take too long to make up my mind. The party was formed to defend the NHS in response to the Health and Social Care Act believing, rightly as it has turned out, that this would lead to a fragmented, underfunded service with competition driving down quality of care.

The rot first set in 1990 with the Thatcher government which brought in the purchaser - provider split. Successive governments of every different colour have been seduced by the ideology of the market. But we already have the most cost effective and equally accessible health care system in the developed world. We just don’t spend enough of our GDP on it - 9.5% versus 11.5% in Germany and 17.5% in the USA.

Simon Stevens’ Five Year Forward View, which has been endorsed by the Lib Dems, the Conservatives and Labour, admits that there will be a funding gap of £30 billion but hopes at least £22 billion can be recouped with efficiency savings.

Really? What are these increases in productivity they envisage? Each GP seeing an extra five patients a day? Fewer, or lower skilled nursing staff?

Even more disturbing is Jeremy Hunt’s ‘Devo Manc’ proposal whereby responsibility for integrated health and social care spending in the Greater Manchester area will be devolved to the council and CCG. Integration is a fine ideal and clearly makes sense but is anyone promising us that social care will become comprehensive, free and publicly provided or do we risk health care becoming limited, means-tested and privatised? There is a real worry that having taken the ‘N’ out of the NHS the secretary of state for health will wash his hands and say ‘I don’t interfere with local decision making’.

The House of Commons desperately needs more MPs who know about health to prevent any more ill-thought-out, chaotic, ideologically-driven reorganisations.

Healthcare is expensive, but it is cheaper in a publicly provided system. We need a grown up conversation about what care we want and how we are going to afford it. Scrapping the market will save £4.5 billion annually in transaction costs, a penny on income tax will bring another £4.5 billion and we could renegotiate those disastrous PFI loans.

In the constituency I am standing in, there was the tightest of margins (176 votes) between the Tories (more austerity) and the Lib Dems (ditto). I’m asking electors to think about what they value. If you are lucky enough to have an NHA candidate where you are, try looking them up to get a full picture of our policies.

Dr Helen Salisbury, a GP in Oxford, is standing as an NHA candidate in Oxford West and Abingdon

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