Ten Days to Stop Jeremy Hunt Day 10 – Show that you value our doctors and nurses

I have worked with countless NHS workers in my nearly three decades as a doctor. I never fail to be amazed by their dedication, their skill, their love of people and, sometimes, their bravery.

Staff levels are one of the critical issues.

  • There are 50,000 NHS staff vacancies. One in 10 nursing posts are empty – nursing vacancies have risen by 50% in three years.
  • For doctors, the number of vacancies rose by 60%.
  • And 1 in 3 nurses in post will reach retirement age within the next 10 years.
  • 1 in 12 general practice posts are vacant.
  • The number of NHS mental health nurses has fallen by 15% since 2010. Locally, I’m know it’s hard for young people to access a CAMHS appointment.

The impact of this is that those working in the NHS have to work extra long hours, often unpaid, to cover the staffing gaps. Staffing gaps affect the quality and safety of patient care. Increased workload and long hours lead to exhaustion and burnout. Many staff are leaving the service as a result, adding to the staffing crisis.

Don’t they deserve to be treated with respect? Don’t our nurses deserve a decent wage? Don’t they deserve better than Jeremy Hunt?

The Conservative Government, and Jeremy Hunt, are promising that they will increase numbers, but these are empty words.

In fact his actions and those of his government have had the opposite effect.

  • He has imposed a draconian pay cap on nurses meaning their pay will have been cut by 12% by 2020.
  • He has removed the bursary for student nurses, meaning many people who want to train to become a nurse can’t afford to do so.
  • He has treated nurses and junior doctors with contempt. Record numbers are taking time off with stress because they fear that patients aren’t receiving the care they need.
  • The “hard Brexit” approach and failure to assure EU nationals working in the NHS of their future has led to thousands leaving and a 92% drop in EU nurses applying to work in UK.
  • Since his announcement in 2015 of 5000 more GPs by 2020 we actually have fewer GPs now than two years ago!

Louise Irvine supporting junior doctors in London

Louise Irvine campaigning with Junior Doctors in Farnham, April 2016

Perhaps the most damning statistic is that more than half of all nurses say they are looking to quit the profession. Think about why someone wants to become a nurse in the first place and the training that go through. And then think about how bad it would have to be to want to leave that all behind. There is no point increasing nurse and doctor training places if they don’t stay in the job once qualified.

It’s a disgrace, but simple to solve. We have to offer nurses and all NHS staff a decent wage, that keeps up with inflation. We have to offer bursaries to young people who want to work in the NHS. We have to improve the conditions they work in. We have to ensure hospitals and community services have sufficient funding to recruit and retain the staff that are needed. (Read my health visiting blog here).

But, perhaps most importantly, we have to show our nurses junior doctors and other NHS staff that we value and respect them. Not with empty words, but with our actions.

You can show how much you value our amazing NHS staff by voting for me, Dr Louise Irvine of the National Health Action Party, and kicking out Jeremy Hunt.


Dr Louise Irvine

More Reading:

Vacancy stats: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35667939

Nurses pay cuts: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/29/nhs-nurses-pay-cut-12-per-cent-over-decade

1 in 3 nurses reach retirement age: http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/news/one-three-nurses-reach-retirement-age-within-ten-years

End of student nurse bursaries: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/21/nhs-bursaries-for-student-nurses-will-end-in-2017-government-confirms

Nurses leaving the profession: https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/reviews-and-reports/critical-reasons-behind-nurses-leaving-profession-laid-bare/7016295.article

Nurses stress and fear for patient care: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/national-hell-service-landmark-nurses-10053340

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Cuts to social work, health visiting and school nurses

Candidates at the Godalming hustings on 28 May 2017 were asked how they would ensure that services in SW Surrey for safeguarding children against abuse could be improved. I said that cuts to social work, health visiting and school nurses had jeopardised safeguarding and had to be reversed. Jeremy Hunt challenged me by saying health visiting had not been cut.

That’s not true. Since 2015 when health visiting was transferred to local authorities, funding for and numbers of health visitors have reduced.

A health visitor who works locally told me there had been a reduction in health visitor numbers in SW Surrey. Health Visitors are not being replaced when they leave and some student health visitors are not staying on. Health visitors are demoralised due to being down graded, and having their pay cut, and some are leaving. School nursing levels have also been cut due to lack of funding.

Official figures show that nationally at least 988 full time health visiting posts (NHS Digital, 2016) have been lost between Sept 2015 and August 2016, with 56% of local authorities planning further cuts. (Evidence to Health Select Committee, 2016).

According to the Institute of Health Visiting’s 2016 survey, 85% of health visitors surveyed said their workload had increased over the past two years due to a reduction in the number of health visitors.

Health visiting numbers had increased between 2010 and 2015 but in October 2015 health visiting was transferred to local authorities to fund. At the same time the public health budget for local authorities was cut by about a third. So around the country local authorities responded by cutting health visiting and school nursing.

This is a false economy. Children’s community nurses play a vital role in promoting children’s health.

Children in the UK have higher child death rates, obesity and ill-health than in much of Europe. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/25/poverty-in-the-uk-jeopardising-childrens-health-warns-landmark-report

The public health cut was one of the ways that the government could claim it was “spending more on the NHS”. It moved money out of public health and doctor and nurse training budgets into direct NHS services and used this to claim it was “spending more on the NHS”.

The government was rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority and the chair of the Health Select Committee, Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, for misleading the public on the actual amount it was spending on the NHS. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/30/theresa-mays-claim-on-health-funding-not-true-say-mps

It is tragic that children’s community nurses should have been casualties of this “creative accounting” for political purposes. Hived off into cash strapped local authorities with a reduced budget and no ring fencing it was clear those services were going to be vulnerable to cuts.

According to the Kings Fund public health spending will fall by at least £600 million in real terms by 2020/21, on top of £200 million cut from the budget in 2015/16. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/files/kf/field/field_publication_file/Autumn_Statement_Kings_Fund_Nov_2016_3.pdf

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Lords committee on NHS sustainability that reducing the public health budget would not necessarily impede progress on public health.

He clearly lives in a parallel universe where services can function on thin air and good will alone. Back in the real world public health and preventive services are being drastically cut. Across the country, as well as health visitors and school nurses, important preventive services such as smoking cessation, weight management, sexual and reproductive health, breast feeding support, community mental health services, addiction services, elderly people’s falls prevention services, and services to reduce levels of infant mortality and low birth weight are all being cut.

British Medical Journal (paywall): Death rate rising in UK’s poorest infants: http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j2258

The Times (paywall) : Infant mortality rate rises for first time in a decade: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/infant-mortality-rate-rises-for-first-time-in-a-decade-sq69wl6xp

Public health should not be some Cinderella service, neglected and starved of funds to shore up front line care and save the government’s face. In the long term it will cost the NHS more if we don’t invest properly now in public health. If Jeremy Hunt really cared about our nation’s health, and especially children’s health, he should be championing public health, not cutting it.

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Ten Days to Stop Jeremy Hunt Day 9 – Looking after the elderly

It’s the issue that introduced us to the phrase ‘weak and wobbly’ when describing Theresa May – the “dementia tax”. Social care for the elderly is one of the most important issues facing us in the next parliament and for many years to come.

Under the Coalition and then the Conservatives social care funding was slashed. 400,000 people are no longer eligible for any help with care costs, including many people on low incomes.

The Conservatives have not promised any extra funding for social care. Their manifesto contains a proposal to force older people to use the assets of their own home to pay for their care needs while they are still living at home.

Last year, Jeremy Hunt described our care crisis as a commercial opportunity. Banks will create “products” to unlock these assets when they die. In effect, it’s a “dementia tax” for people who are receiving care in their own homes. They will have to take out bank loans against their property to be handed over to the financial institutions when they die.

Promises of £100K bottom limits or unspecified caps don’t address the real issue which is that those unlucky enough to suffer catastrophic illness and long-term disability, such as severe Alzheimer’s, requiring long term care, will have to pay £ thousands while others who are fortunate enough to avoid illness will not have to pay anything.

It is a profoundly unfair proposal because it does not allow the pooling of risk. This contrast with health care where risks and costs are pooled: people pay in according to their means and take out what they need. This was Bevan’s vision when he founded the NHS and we need a social care system established on the same principle.

The National Health Action Party believes:

  • Social care should be free. That would allow it to be properly integrated with health care.
  • The Conservatives’ “dementia tax” should be rejected.
  • Local authorities should once again provide residential care homes to avoid dependence on the private sector.
  • Carers should be well paid, well trained and supported. 15 minute care slots should be abolished.

These measures are affordable by our society, one of the wealthiest in the world. It’s a matter of priorities: do we want to live in a society where the elderly are well cared for or one where they suffer poor or absent care and the fear of incurring huge individual costs should they need care?


Louise Irvine

Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party

The candidate selected by Lib Dem, Labour and Green party members in South West Surrey to kick out Jeremy Hunt.

And if you want to help me protect your NHS from Jeremy Hunt, please contact us here. I’d be delighted to welcome you on board.

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Ten Days to Stop Jeremy Hunt Day 8 – The air we breathe, the world we live in

(Due to the horrific news from London on Saturday night, I suspended social campaigning yesterday and held off publishing this Day 8 update. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and all those who suffered. And our gratitude and respect is with all those who helped.)

Last week, Donald Trump announced that the USA would pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Amid universal condemnation from all around the world, our ‘strong and stable’ Conservative leaders chose to be silent and meek.

It’s not good enough. Climate change is the biggest issue affecting the world and we choose to stand by when the world’s second biggest polluter pulled out. Instead of leading the response, we did nothing.


Environmental issues are not just big issues that feel far away. One of the most serious issues affecting our health is the air that we breathe.


Air pollution kills 40,000 people every year in the UK. That’s over 100 every day, or one every 14 minutes. How long is it since you got up this morning? An hour… that’s 4 people. Half a day… that’s 50 people.

It’s estimated that children in 3,000 schools are breathing air that is above the legal limit for pollution. This isn’t just an inner-city issue, it affects schools all over the country including here in South West Surrey. That’s our children.

This is both an environmental and a health issue, that affects every one of us. We need to take action now to deal with air pollution, locally and nationally.

Last week, the Farnham Herald reported:

Levels of air pollution have increased at more than two thirds of monitoring locations in Farnham – and remain illegally high at a dozen pollution hotspots across the town.

They reported that for Farnham the data are showing:

the annual mean levels of hazardous nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have increased at 13 of 19 (68 per cent) monitoring locations in the town.

I filmed this report in Farnham, and talk about the issue of pollution in South West Surrey:

Locally, this must be addressed. I wrote about some changes we could make in South West Surrey in an earlier blog post here. This was in response to a question from Guildford & Waverley Friends of the Earth about dangerous NO2 levels outside a school in Godalming.

Nationally, I believe the UK must take the lead in tackling climate change, not quiver meekly when Donald Trump puts the world at risk.

Vote for me, Dr Louise Irvine. I’ll fight for the health of our air and our children. And I’ll push for the UK to lead the world in fighting climate change.


Louise Irvine

Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party

The candidate selected by Lib Dem, Labour and Green party members in South West Surrey to kick out Jeremy Hunt.

And if you want to help me protect your NHS from Jeremy Hunt, please contact us here. I’d be delighted to welcome you on board.

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The London Bridge terror attack

London Bridge attack – We extend sympathies to the families whose loved ones have been lost or injured. We also praise the police, medical staff and support services involved in the attack.

Due to last night’s attack, the National Health Action Party suspended national campaigning today. Locally, our candidates engaged in low key leafleting.

Today, we were due to publish our Day 8 campaign notice but decided to hold off. Day 8 and Day 9 will both be published tomorrow.


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Ten days to stop Jeremy Hunt: Day 7 – One way direction for privatisation

Jeremy Hunt:     “Well, I don’t support privatisation of the NHS.” Haslemere Hustings, 19th May 2017

Fact: The Department of Health’s own figures show that in just 2 years there has been a 33% increase in the amount it spends on private companies providing care to NHS patients.


The Conservatives are hell-bent on privatisation of the NHS. Spend on outsourced services increased from £6.6bn in 2013/4 to £8.7bn in 2015/6. It’s all going one way.

The companies involved might have nice names – like Virgin Care, Care UK, Circle Health, Spire Healthcare, The Practice PLC, United Health. But the truth about these companies is far less attractive.

Do you want to know one thing that they all have in common? They are all owned by holding companies or hedge funds based in tax havens. Yes, all of them.

Take Care UK. With over £½bn contracts in 2015, it paid precisely £0 in corporation tax. In fact, we cannot find any record of it ever paying corporation tax and yet Care UK directors and their families have made donations to the Conservative Party of over £300,000!

Take Virgin Care which runs 230 NHS and social care contracts. It is very difficult to unravel their accounts as they are split into 13 different holding companies (many based in the tax haven Virgin Islands). The respected Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant at Tax Research UK, has put it like this:.”The complex nature of the multinational group to which Virgin Care belongs means that it is not possible to draw any conclusions from the individual company’s accounts, including about how it is funded and its tax payments.Read more here.

Virgin Care has upset people here in South West Surrey. When it didn’t win a tender process, its immediate response was to sue. It’s trying to sue NHS England, Surrey County Council and Guildford and Waverly CCG. (FT article: Virgin Care sues NHS after losing Surrey child services deal.)

If they win, that’s tax that you and I have paid going into the pockets of a company whose tax records are obscure, to say the least . Are you happy about that?

I am also very concerned about The Naylor Review, which Theresa May says she backs. It requires the NHS to sell its assets as a condition of further funding. It’s privatisation by the backdoor.

My fight against privatisation isn’t an ideological one. It’s a practical one based on wanting what’s best for us, the public. I want an NHS that is:

  • Safe: A CHPI (Centre for Health and the Public Interest) report in August 2014 found that in the previous four years there had been 800 unexpected deaths in private hospitals and that in 2012-13 there had been 2,600 emergency admissions to the NHS from private hospitals
  • High quality: A BMA study found that the CCGs with highest use of private providers have the poorest ratings.
  • Efficient: Another CHPI report estimated the additional costs of running the groups set up to administer the outsourcing of services at £5bn per annum. CEO salaries of over £300,000 don’t help! That’s 13 nurses’ salaries!
  • Secure for the future: When Southern Cross care home provider went bust in 2013, it put the well-being of thousands of their care home residents in jeopardy. That doesn’t happen in the NHS.
  • Invested in: With increased investment to ensure that the NHS can meet patients’ needs..

Privatisation has hidden costs. It destabilises and sometimes destroys local NHS services by cherry-picking the easiest work that brings in the most money, depriving NHS services of vital income and staff. We must fight this relentless march towards the privatisation of the NHS. We must fight the Tories and restore the NHS as a fully public service.

I can beat Jeremy Hunt in South West Surrey. Vote for me, Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party to keep your NHS safe and public.

I’m the candidate selected by Lib Dem, Labour and Green party members in South West Surrey to kick out Jeremy Hunt.

And if you want to help me protect your NHS from Jeremy Hunt, please contact us here. I’d be delighted to welcome you on board.

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Louise Irvine will be at the Farnham Hustings tonight

Message from Louise about this evening’s hustings at The Farnham

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Ten days to stop Jeremy Hunt: Day 6: I’m Lib Dem, but I’m voting to #electdrlouise

A guest post from Penny Rivers, the Liberal Democrat recently elected as Surrey County Councillor

You may know me. You may even have voted for me. I am your newly elected Liberal Democrat Surrey County Councillor for Godalming North and I beat the Conservative candidate just a few weeks ago. If you voted for me, thank you – I will strive to represent you as strongly and passionately as I can.

Nationally, I want the Liberal Democrats to do as well as they possibly can in the coming election. I believe in our vision for a Stronger Economy and a Fairer Society. #IAgreeWithTim.

I won here partly due to an alliance locally. Labour and the Greens didn’t stand against me and we united in beating the Tories.

In the coming election, we have another alliance. Local Lib Dem, Labour and Green party members voted overwhelmingly to support Dr Louise Irvine as the Progressive Alliance candidate to take on (and defeat) Jeremy Hunt. Unfortunately, the national Labour and Lib Dem parties have rules that state we must have a candidate but, they can’t win!

We must put people above party, which is why I will vote for Dr Louise Irvine of the National Health Action Party. And it’s why I urge you to join other Lib Dem supporters (and Greens and Labour) to vote for her too. She is the best placed candidate to challenge Jeremy Hunt on the NHS and the other big issues that affect us all.

Learn more about our Progressive Alliance here in South West Surrey.

Together, we can defeat Jeremy Hunt.


Penny Rivers

Liberal Democrat Surrey County Councillor


A note from Dr Louise Irvine…

Even the bookies are saying that the Lib Dems have no chance to beat Jeremy Hunt, but with Lib Dem support I can.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote to keep Jeremy Hunt.

I know you don’t want that so please vote for me, Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party.

Download your car/window posters here.


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Ten days to stop Jeremy Hunt: Day 5 – “The wait could be fatal”

In an emergency, our ambulance service is at the front line. Every day paramedics save the lives of people involved in accidents, having heart attacks or suffering strokes.

I know how important speed is when a life is in danger. For every minute longer that it takes to get treatment, the chances of survival falls.

It is very concerning that across the country ambulance response times are getting worse. There are many factors contributing to this: funding of the ambulance service is not keeping up with demand which has been growing at 5% a year; the bottlenecks in our A+Es because of lack of beds creates a back pressure on ambulances which have to wait longer to hand over their patients and therefore take longer to get to the next call; and there is a shortfall of paramedics, leading many services to go as far afield as Australia in an attempt to recruit. Paramedic training places were cut in recent years.

The impact on response times has been dramatic and there are no signs it’s going to improve.


If you have a stroke, for example, it’s a code Red 2 emergency. The target to reach the patient is 8 minutes. But for the past year that target has only been hit around 60% of the time.


Jeremy Hunt talks about “efficiency savings” and targets. But behind the stats are real people and potential lives lost.

If you’re reading this in Haslemere or the south of Waverley then there is a new concern. The plans to close the specialist stroke unit at Royal Surrey County Hospital mean that if you suffer a stroke you will be taken to Frimley Park Hospital or St Peter’s in Chertsey. They are good hospitals, but speed is of the essence when it comes to stroke treatment and journeys could take significantly longer. Slow ambulance response times are one thing; gridlocked roads at peak times are another.

Remember, every minute counts. Even Robert Knowles, the Conservative former Waverley Borough Council leader has said that “the wait could be fatal”.

Our ambulance service, South East Coast Ambulance, is in special measures, partly due to poor response times. It’s suffering the same issues that have affected ambulance services around the country for many years: lack of funding and lack of staff.

If you had a stroke, or someone you love has an accident and their life is in danger you’d be counting the minutes. Jeremy Hunt is failing the NHS. He’s failing the dedicated staff who work in it. And he’s failing people like you and me.  But it doesn’t have to be this way. We must demand that our ambulance service is properly funded so once again it can be the great service that we depend on if we have an emergency.

Dr Louise Irvine

Vote for Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party.

The candidate selected by Lib Dem, Labour and Green party members in South West Surrey to kick out Jeremy Hunt.

And if you want to help me protect your NHS from Jeremy Hunt, please contact us here. I’d be delighted to welcome you on board.

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Ten days to stop Jeremy Hunt: Day 4 – Why this election matters to the under 30s

If you are under 30, I’d rather you voted against me than not vote at all!

I know, it’s an odd thing for a candidate in next week’s election to say, but it’s something I really care about.

I know people are turned off by party politics. I hate that kind of politics too – it seems so divorced from people’s lives.  Many people feel their MPs don’t really represent them. They feel their vote doesn’t count in our first past the post electoral system. Most MPs, and almost certainly our government, will be elected despite more than half of the population voting  against them.

It makes me angry that many politicians ignore the needs of people under 30 as they are less likely to vote.

But voting is important. Your MP will have a say in whether the NHS gets funded or cut more. Whether we enshrine human rights into British Law post Brexit. Whether we support poor countries and welcome refugees. Whether we invest in clean air and take climate change seriously. Whether we create more affordable and social housing. Whether we reinstate Educational Maintenance Allowances and nurses training bursaries, or abolish university tuition fees. And so much more.

William, South West Surrey. First time voter.


I’m part of a “progressive alliance” of people across parties– from the Greens who stood down for me to many members of the Lib Dem and Labour Party who actively support me as the person with the best chance of beating Jeremy Hunt!


So please vote next week. Don’t vote for a politician or a party – vote for the person who will stand up on the issues that you care about.


I obviously hope that’s me. But if not, please still vote!


Dr Louise Irvine


PS, just in case you’re wondering:

  • I will campaign passionately against the cuts that are destroying our NHS and against its privatisation
  • I want to see our human rights laws strengthened not weakened – we should lead the world on this
  • I am a strong supporter of international aid to help the poorest people in the world, and am disgusted at our refusal to help refugees from Syria
  • Clean air is vital to our health and I will campaign tirelessly on environmental issues
  • I believe we need more affordable houses and more social housing, not more built for buy-to-let landlords to make even more profit.
  • I will campaign for electoral reform
  • I support a “soft Brexit” to maintain the strongest possible ties with Europe.

I will fight for students who need it to be entitled to maintenance grants and reinstate the bursaries for trainee nurses and for the abolition of university tuition fees.

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