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Can Jeremy Corbyn save the NHS?



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