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Can Jeremy Corbyn save the NHS?

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So the question in my mind has been, ‘Will the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition make any difference to the NHS and to British general practice in particular?’

It seems that there are two groups at diametrically opposed ends of the political spectrum that welcome Mr Corbyn’s new role. Those on the left wing are thrilled that one of their own is in a position of power with the ability to steer the Labour Party back to the socialist principles that helped to birth the NHS itself. Those on the right seem happy that Labour Party has committed political suicide by selecting, or rather electing, a rebellious radical who would seem highly unlikely to be able to bring Labour back to power.

Whatever the general population and politicians think of Mr Corbyn, I am more interested to know what he thinks about the NHS and general practice. A cursory flick through his website reveals that he believes the NHS is ‘Our Best Asset’ and that it needs increased funding. This is consistent with his anti-austerity campaign.

His first engagement as Labour leader was to attend a mental health community day. That may bode well for primary care, as long as he recognises that much subacute and lower intensity mental healthcare takes place within general practice.

Delving further one can see that he has asked questions in Parliament about how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership might affect the NHS. He is against privatisation. This leads me to hope that perhaps, just perhaps, Mr Corbyn could be the immovable object that can resist the unstoppable force that seems to be the trajectory for NHS privatisation.

For those that believe that repealing the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and removing market forces from the NHS will save and preserve it, then perhaps Jeremy is your man.

Except that he is still only the leader of the opposition, the leader of a party that threatens to fracture around him. It remains to be seen whether he can provide much of a fight for the NHS and those that love and trust in it. If he is rebelled against, he may not stand a chance of remaining in the position of leaders, let alone fighting for the causes that he and his supporters believe in. One can only hope that the NHS is one of those causes that he would battle for.

If he defeats the odds again and unites the opposition to the current government and to the neo-liberal approach to economics then the NHS may have a powerful ally. If he defies the odds a third time, to be elected Prime Minister, then, if it’s not too late the NHS may have a stay of execution.

Dr Samir Dawlatly is a GP in Birmingham

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Readers' comments (21)

  • No

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  • Its a failing system which is catastrophic for patients and healthcare workers alike. Time to move on get our heads out of the sand and look at what the rest of the world does.

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  • Corbyn will never have the slightest positive effect on the NHS. Several outcomes are possible:

    1. Corbyn is removed and replaced in a year or two, so he can never be in power.

    2. If he lasts as long as 2020 the most likely outcome is a heavy defeat.

    3. By some miracle he wins the 2020 election, capital takes flight from the UK, pound loses heavily, interest rates rise rapidly, no business will invest against government pricing controls or nationalisation so a deep recession means the govt has much less tax receipts to spend on anything, and no-one will lend to his govt, so JC would find himself with far less, not more, to spend on the NHS.

    Corbyn is typical looney lefty:-
    1. Can not understand that if you want to redistribute wealth then first you have to make wealth.
    2. Socialism ALWAYS runs out of other people's money.

    The concept of the NHS is dead but politicians keep giving it shocks to make the corpse twitch and pretend it is alive. Why oh why can't we scrap this cult religion and do what every other sane country does and charge people for it.

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  • I have never seen the media so hostile towards anyone before and that is going to be a huge problem.Anything you will read about Corbyn will be through the huge distorting lens of the press.

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  • in theory, he could.
    in theory, communism works..

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  • The NHS is dead.Long live the NHS!

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  • Give the fella time to pull his thoughts together, eh?

    Out of all the Labour leadership candidates, Jeremy Corbyn was the most likely to seek to ensure that everyone remains able to access a reasonable standard of health care. He can't save the NHS because he's in opposition with limited support from his parliamentary party (as opposed to the actual grassroots Labour Party members) and Jeremy Hunt has a mandate to collapse the NHS during the current parliamentary term. But every other candidate would have smiled and nodded while the NHS was sold off to the profit-skimming chancers inside and outside our profession, whereas there's a chance that Jeremy Corbyn will ensure that awkward questions are asked. That's the best we can hope for.

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  • not sure that his views on privatisation fit well with independent contractor model of primary care. be interesting to see what he thinks

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  • Vinci Ho

    Never cast a vote to Labour Party .......
    (1) There appears to be a syndrome of 'stuck in denial of bereavement ' amongst many Labour MPs as well as media journalists
    ( excluding those Tory propaganda machinery). The extraordinary sequence of events started from the result of the general election in May sent many political observers head spinning . First of all , all the media poll predictions before the election were all proven wrong and even the Tories could not believe they could win by a just enough margin . This is the first denial , even now. Then some well into his sixties veteran Labour MP won a historical landslide over three just young enough to be his children , fellow colleagues in the leadership race. He won nearly 60% of the votes and would still triumph even if 10% votes were sabotaged . Somehow the media and his own opposing colleagues , once again , could not handle the truth . In fact , instead of saying they would respect the result of democracy , the immediate response was how to form a coup to turn this over. Of course , this is well fuelled by the comment of the 'ex-emperors' of the party beforehand. The bigotry to deny something is not quite the same, is analogous to Einstein's refusal to accept the uncertainties created by quantum mechanics.
    As George Orwell , in As I please , Tribune 1944,said,'To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable. It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel, or both, than to find out what he is really like. It is this habit of mind, among other things, that has made political prediction in our time so remarkably unsuccessful.'
    (2) I do not believe , for a second , any government coming to power will be any easy to us(GPs).But politics is politics . It is a game and it has rules . If one believes politics is about changes to make people's life better , I rather believe it is about exposing the dark side of human being. Hence , the rule is the group who can expose more darkness from the opposition than it being exposed ,will win. Question is how? Devious Mao provided the answer ,' ally with your lesser enemy to raid the main one!' It is laughable how little these Labour MPs understand this simple rule of survival.
    (3) And not surprising , the Tories would really think that they would definitely win the next general election and have no hesitation to move their direction even more to the right . But I do believe in Butterfly Effect(s) and that's why these opposition parties really need to know the meaning of opposing.

    In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. 'Do it,' says the king, 'for I am your lawful ruler.' 'Do it,' says the priest, 'for I command you in the names of the gods.' 'Do it,' says the rich man, 'and all this gold shall be yours.' So tell me- who lives and who dies?

    Tyrion: depends on the sellsword
    Varys: does it ?He has neither crown, nor gold nor favour with the gods, only a piece of pointed steel.
    Tyrion:He has a sword, the power of life and death
    Varys: But if it's swordsmen who rule , why do we pretend kings hold all the power ?
    Varys: power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.It is a trick , a shadow on the wall , yet a shadow can kill.And oft times ,a very small man can cast a very large shadow .

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  • Good post Samir,
    you've got Heidi Alexander as Shadow Health Secretary, what do you think?

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