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CAMHS won't see you now

Locals scupper GPs' site

Nerys Hairon joins Dr Ivan Benett as he takes the Pulse manifesto and NHS privatisation on to the hustings

On the walk through the leafy suburbs of south Manchester towards the election hustings, Dr Ivan Benett is in reflective mood.

Dr Benett, part-time GP and parliamentary candidate in Manchester Withington, will be facing his electorate for the first time.

As an independent and last-minute entrant, he knows he is unlikely to win. But he insists a 'big vote' would force politicians to take notice of his concerns over privatisation of the NHS and the erosion of the traditional GP role.

A number of his patients have already pledged their support and offered to display his posters in their windows.

At the hustings, attended by 300 voters, the eight candidates have three minutes each to make their case. Dr Benett goes first and in spite of his nerves, he makes a good pitch.

He is a reluctant candidate, he admits, a lifelong Labour supporter who has been driven to action by the Iraq war and creeping privatisation of the NHS. His would be a strong independent voice in support of the NHS, he implores.

Dr Benett comes across more credibly than most and his pitch is well received ­ although the sitting Labour MP, Keith Bradley, gets the loudest applause.

Questions from the floor follow, with topics ranging from abortion to asylum and international aid.

Dr Benett uses his experience as a GP to answer a question on abortion and euthanasia. On international aid he talks about his background in Mauritius and the poverty he has witnessed there.

But it is the final question, on rumours of the closure of a local hospital, that gives Dr Benett his chance. 'This is just the tip of the iceberg,' he warns voters. 'That is the whole point of foundation trusts; they will compete with each other. This means hospitals will close.'

After the meeting, Dr Benett is approached by several members of the audience.

Dr Amar Ahmed, a GP in Wilmslow, says he thought Dr Benett 'came across well', although he preferred Conservative policies. But he is supportive of Dr Benett. 'I feel a lot more GPs need to get involved,' he says.

As Dr Benett relaxes after the meeting, he admits it was nerveracking but says it went better than he expected.

Retaining his £500 deposit would be the first hurdle, he knows. 'Any more than that would make whoever won take notice.'

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