Dr Clive Peedell is co-founder and co-leader of the National Health Action Party, the NHAP PPC for Witney, and a member of the British Medical Association Council.
As a new political party, the National Health Action Party welcomes debate and discussion about it’s political aims and policies.
However, Hugh Byrne’s ConservativeHome article about the NHA Party was littered with a number of mistakes, inaccuracies and selective quotes out of context, that require corrections and responses.
For a start, he didn’t even get the name of the party correct. We are not the “NHS Action Party”, we are the National Health Action Party. This name is important, because our policies cover a full range of policy areas, not just health. We are concerned about the health of the nation in every sense of the word as is made clear in our Election Manifesto and published policies.
Byrne then selectively quotes two sentences from our policy document on topics which refer to issues of “gated communites” and “MP’s given jobs in the private sector after leaving office”, which in isolation looks like the NHA Party has made them as absolute statements of fact, but in fact, in the context of the rest of the policy text they are clearly explained. (Readers should judge for themselves by looking at the quotes in full context: Section 8, para 3 and Section 2, political reform)
Bryne argues that our claims about the dismantling of the NHS are misinformed, but experts in health policy and law published evidence in the BMJ and the Lancet at the time, to show that the NHS would be abolished on a legal basis by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
The Act effectively denationalised the NHS, and was hence labelled the “Secretary of of State for Health Abdication Bill” by Lord David Owen. The proposed £6bn devolution of the Greater Manchester health service is a clear sign of this.
He is also mistaken about the risks of TTIP to the NHS. We have never stated that TTIP will drive the NHS privatisation process. That is being done by the Health and Social Care Act, which legislated for a regulated external economic market.
The risk of TTIP and the ISDS (Investor to State Dispute Settlement) is that once a nation’s healthcare system is open to the market and privatisation, it then becomes subject to the rules of TTIP and thus the privatisation that had already taken place becomes “locked in”. Thus TTIP remains a major threat to a public NHS.
Byrne also states that “even Liberal Democrat candidates such as Luke Taylor have debunked the NHS-TTIP myth”, but it isn’t exactly surprising that a member of a political party that is part of the Coalition government, supports and defends government policy.
He then claims that denying tax relief to private insurance defies logic, but tax relief results in the taxpayer subsidising those who can afford health insurance or out of pocket fees for private healthcare. In addition, private doctors receive their training in the NHS, and when things go wrong in the private sector, it is often the NHS that picks up the pieces.
We welcome a separate private healthcare sector because it can reduce the burden on the NHS. This includes allowing NHS hospitals to treat private patients, when spare capacity allows and if not abused by “moonlighting” NHS consultants.
However, the private healthcare sector should not be subsidised by the taxpayer, because diverts money from other vital public services including the NHS itself.
Byrne’s claims about our “scaremongering” on NHS funding were also misinformed and badly timed in view of former NHS CEO, Sir David Nicholson’s intervention and dire warnings about NHS finances. The National Health Action Party has been warning about this for several months since the publication of the 5 Year Forward View.
The NHS is nowhere near the two per cent efficiency savings per year that Byrne mentions. In fact, the Chief Economist of the Health Foundation, Anita Charlesworth has recently shown that NHS productivity has fallen to negative levels after the £20bn “Nicholson challenge”.
Finally, Byrne’s claim that we are anti-Tory omits the fact they we are standing against incumbent Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs as well as Tories, and regularly and openly criticise Labour’s health policies and their inadequate funding plans for the NHS.
In fact, I have personally campaigned about the previous Labour Government’s market driven health policy within my BMA role (“Look After Our NHS campaign”).
We are an anti-austerity party, which believes in a mixed economy of the public and private sectors working together to grow the economy out of trouble in sustainable, fairer, and healthier way.
This requires long term investment, not further austerity, which drives wider wealth inequality and health inequality, slowing growth and worsening public health. The evidence base for the fiscal multiplier effects for health and education spending is well documented.
Since David Cameron avoided debating me in the Witney hustings, I would be more than happy to publicly debate Byrne in a ConservativeHome webcast. Any time, any place…