Chris Skidmore is the Member of Parliament for Kingswood. Follow Chris on Twitter.
I am writing as a Member of the Health Select Committee, asking if you might be able to clarify precisely what the Labour Party’s position on the BMA strike taking place this Thursday will be.
While the Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has rightly urged doctors “to pull back from any form of action that damages patient care, including disruption to non-urgent care” there seems to be no one consistent position from the Labour Party. For instance, on 16 May 2012, The Shadow Minister for Public Health, Diane Abbott, in an interview with Pulse Magazine, was asked: “Would the Labour Party be in favour of industrial action that wouldn't harm patient safety, which the BMA has confirmed?” Ms Abbott replied, “Yes, as long as they are not compromising patient safety” adding, ‘We have a lot of sympathy for the BMA’. Your adviser, Dr Kailash Chand, has also previously called for strike action from the BMA.
While you have personally slapped down the suggestion by Len McCluskey that strike action could take place during the Olympics, stating that "any threat to the Olympics is totally unacceptable and wrong. This is a celebration for the whole country and must not be disrupted”, yYou seem to have remained silent over whether the BMA strike action is justified or not, and there seems to be no record of you personally condemning Thursday’s strike.
Strike action on Thursday will not only cost the NHS in excess of £40 million, it will disrupt the lives of thousands of patients whose operations will have to be cancelled, and vital appointments will have to be rebooked.
Many NHS patients, who are greatly concerned about the consequences of strike action on Thursday for their own patient care, deserve to know what the Labour Party position is and no doubt want you to show leadership on this issue.
I hope that you are able to state unequivocally your disapproval of the BMA strike action on Thursday, and use your position as Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party to ensure that, like your opposition to strike action during the Olympics, political parties from across all sides of the House can unite in opposing strike action in the NHS on Thursday.
Chris Skidmore MP