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Why I'm standing up for our NHS

In his disillusionment with the parties in power, GP Dr Steve Ford plans to stand against them at the next election. Here he explains why and sets out his hopes for the NHS

In his disillusionment with the parties in power, GP Dr Steve Ford plans to stand against them at the next election. Here he explains why and sets out his hopes for the NHS

Einstein's definition of insanity: 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'. Why do we do it – endlessly vote for the same old parties?

Healthcare has no parliamentary representation free of party obligation, nor does a host of other facets of national life. Instead we have government by... what? A self-selecting and perpetuating oligarchy, whose frame of reference is limited to what can pass for policy discussion within their own fissile ranks.

Worse yet, we are all complicit, in that we meekly vote or apathetically fail to do so. Judging by current membership, party politics has never been weaker. Only two Independent MPs were elected in 2006. They were Dr Richard Taylor (second victory at Wyre Forest), who was my first boss after qualification, and Mr Dai Davies (Blaenau Gwent), replacing another Independent.

Independents used to be more numerous and can and should be again. How can two-and-a-half parties purport to offer a sufficient diversity of views for the whole population? The reflex blackguarding by the media, in response to almost anything a politician does or says, does nothing to promote good government, nor anything to encourage participation by the wider populace. Still, the situation is amenable to change.

Ask yourself: Does your local MP reflect many, if any, of your own views? Did the candidates in your constituency fire your imagination or either alter, ask or care about your opinion? Could you do better?Like many in our profession, I despair of the rebarbative healthcare policies of both Labour and the Conservatives. Did you know that there is a substantial cabal within the Conservative party, the Cornerstone Group, one of whose purposes is the annihilation of tax-funded healthcare? Can the post-Blair Labour party execute a sufficiently convincing U-turn on healthcare to recover the confidence and support of any of us?

NHS is not a business

I despise and reject the 'market' and all its trappings. The NHS never has been and never can be a business – it is what it says on the tin, a service. I resent the corrosive and tendentious intrusions of managerialism and I lament the marginalising of vocationalism. The fulcrum around which the whole of healthcare revolves is not the Department of Health, the clinician or the patient and most certainly not any manager, contract, figures in a spreadsheet, directive or guideline – it is the consultation. From the interaction of patient and clinician is derived the entire purpose and process of care. I also favour the wholesale localisation of healthcare, each county-sized unit being fully autonomous within very broadly drawn policy boundaries.

Appearing an ineffable provincial naif is the most likely outcome but, nonetheless, I am going to stand at the next general election on an 'environment and health' ticket, touching two tightly strung public nerves and avoiding, I hope, the criticism of being a narrow one-issue dilettante. What can be gained? A toe in the door of the democratic process, getting the environment and health further up the political agenda, something completely different by way of a job, a chance to contribute from a taller soapbox than is offered by 'letters to the editor' and the slight discomfiture of the establishment.

Nothing to lose

What role I could play, if successful, depends on the narrowness of the Government's majority and the alliances that I could forge. Demonstrating the viability of independent parliamentary representation for a northern rural constituency, the sort that tends to be overlooked by a Londoncentric parliament, would be a useful innovation. 'Loose cannon' could be a vocation all on its own.

What can be lost? A £500 deposit and whatever I choose to spend on the campaign, my dignity and credibility – such as it ever was... and that's it.See you in the House!

Dr Steve Ford is a GP in Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, who will be standing as an Independent in the next general election

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