Louise Irvine’s article in the Guardian:
In 2013, I led a campaign that saved my local hospital from closure. We took Jeremy Hunt to court and won, securing the future of Lewisham hospital. Now I’m standing against him in the general election.
I am representing the National Health Action party in South West Surrey with the support of the local Green party, and local Labour and Lib Dem party members, who will campaign for me as they believe I am the candidate with the best chance of unseating Jeremy Hunt.
The NHS is in crisis. As a GP of nearly 30 years, I see this on a daily basis and it breaks my heart. It is one of society’s greatest achievements, but all that holds it together now is the dedication of NHS staff who between them work millions of unpaid extra hours a year.
I am appalled at the decline in patient care in the last few years – in terms of quality, accessibility and safety. I want to hold Jeremy Hunt and his government to account for the damage they have done to the NHS and public services.
Statistics are damning but now strangely lacking in impact. Crisis stats are the new normal. In February 2017, 54,492 people waited on trolleys for more than four hours for a hospital bed – a rise of 592% since February 2011. Ambulance service performance is the worst it has ever been, and thousands of children are refused mental health care every year due to inadequate provision. There are about 25,000 vacant nursing posts and fewer GPs per head than there were five years ago.
The Red Cross described the situation in hospitals last winter as a “humanitarian crisis” and research published by the Royal Society of Medicine linked 30,000 excess deaths in 2015 to cuts in health and social care spending.
The NHS is enduring the lowest funding increase per capita of any decade – just 0.9% on average each year – not nearly enough to meet the growing demands of an ageing population. The next two years will see real terms per capita funding cuts.
Meanwhile billions are still being wasted on the internal market and competition, for example the £8.9m that according to the National Audit Office was spent on the failed contracting process for elderly and end of life care in Cambridgeshire. Across England there are “sustainability and transformation” plans to close many A&Es, maternity units and hospital beds.
In 2015 Jeremy Hunt asked voters to trust him with our healthcare, but instead of securing the stability of the NHS and the safety of patients, our health minister has presided over unprecedented underfunding. We have witnessed massive cuts in social care, closures of A&E departments and maternity units, and falls in the number of hospital beds.
The Conservative government has failed to invest adequately in mental health, community-based care and general practice, and overseen an intensifying workforce crisis with dangerous doctor shortfalls in many acute specialties, and a lack of nurses on the wards. The NHS funding cap amounts to real terms pay cut of 14% since 2010, causing many nurses to leave the profession, while some have to rely on foodbanks.
If there is another five years of Conservative rule there will be further decline in the NHS. As it struggles, more and more people will seek alternatives through direct payment or insurance routes, and we will end up with a two tier healthcare system. The principles on which the NHS was founded – of fairness, equality and social solidarity will be destroyed.
But there is another possible future where the NHS is valued and supported. For that we need a change of government – one that will reinstate the NHS as a public service fit for the 21st century.
I want to play my part in that by standing for parliament. If elected, I want to use my passion, knowledge and experience as an NHS campaigner and doctor to champion the NHS and work with others in parliament to secure its future as the wonderful public service we all cherish.