I’ve been a GP in Lewisham for 20 years and led the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital. Now I am standing as a candidate for the National Health Action (NHA) party in the London region of the European elections because I feel the danger to the NHS is real and urgent.
Recent headlines show the unthinkable is starting to happen. GP practices in London are preparing for closure, a Kings Fund report says that the NHS faces financial meltdown, hospitals are closing, mental health, maternity, community and social services are being cut, billions of NHS contracts have gone out to tender with many going to private sector, and patient care is suffering while staff morale plummets.
The NHS is not unsustainable, but at the moment it’s underfunded and what money is in the system is being squandered on the market and PFI. This process could become irreversible unless the NHS is exempted from the EU-US trade treaty (TTIP), currently under negotiation, which would open up NHS services to US corporate takeover and enable companies to sue governments if they brought in laws that reversed privatisation. But if we don’t do anything, we will lose our NHS.
This is happening below the radar of public awareness. As Michael Portillo said, the Tories ‘did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do’.
The only way the destruction of the NHS can proceed is if the public remain ignorant and if the false explanations for the crisis – that it’s because the NHS is unaffordable or it’s the fault of GPs, or nurses, or immigrants – remain unchallenged.
We want to make the NHS an election issue, raise the level of debate and public awareness and show the parties of power that people really do care about the NHS and are not willing to let it be demolished.
Winning a seat for the NHA in the European parliament would have a huge impact and contribute significantly to the movement we need to defend the NHS.
Dr Louise Irvine is a GP in New Cross, south east London, and chair of the ‘Save Lewisham A&E’ campaign.