I Interview the co-leader of the National Health Action Party Dr Clive Peedell, who’s standing against the Prime Minister. He calls the government’s NHS reforms 'completely bonkers'.
According to Ipsos-MORI doctors are the most trusted profession in the country, while, perhaps unsurprisingly, politicians are the least trusted - so why would anyone ever want to go from being a doctor to a politician?
This is the question I put to Dr Clive Peedell, cancer specialist and co-leader of the National Health Action Party, asking him what his motivation for creating the NHA was.
Dr Peedell explained that the NHA was a response to the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, which he claims “completely undermined the democratic process” due to the fact that both the Coalition Agreement and the Conservative 2010 manifesto promised there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS.
He tells me he was “appalled” at the bill attacking “the founding principles of the NHS”, and so he and other doctors and nurses got together to form the National Health Action Party.
He sums up the NHA by saying:
“The NHA is about raising public awareness about the lack of democratic process, and the fact the NHS has been increasingly dismantled and privatised. We wanted to send that message very clearly to the public. We also want to address the social determinants of health, like poverty and housing. It is about time we had a political party run by doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to stand up for the NHS.”
The National Health Action Party dismisses the notion that private competition can provide cheaper or better care for patients, calling the idea “completely bonkers”. Dr Peedell argues that a market based system within the NHS would destabilise local health economies, and costs the NHS around £4.5 billion to administer.
Additionally, private companies are only interested in taking the high volume work that would be more profitable for them, leaving the NHS to do the rest. He claims this has the result of “taking money away form your local NHS hospital, and will ultimately lead to NHS comprehensive services being disintegrated”.
Dr Peedell readily admits David Cameron’s seat of Witney is “very blue”, and with a majority of over 22,000 in 2010 that’s probably understating it. But he remains positive that he could finish as high as second, and has set the target of beating at least one of the major parties in Witney.
He explains that because the NHA is a newly established party many people have not heard of them. I ask him, given the difficulties he’s expressed in starting a new party, why he doesn’t throw his weight behind the Green Party - who share the NHA’s views on private interest in the NHS and ending austerity.
Dr Peedell rejected this idea saying: “The thing is with the Green party they have enormous numbers of policies, and they have got into difficulties by having so many policy areas. We’re a special interest party, and doctors and nurses have got credibility and very high trust ratings with the public. We feel we have got particular expertise in this area, and could achieve more than the Green party in getting the NHS debated.”
Despite being a “special interest party”, Dr Peedell is keen to stress the NHA is a party interested in more than just the NHS with a range of policies within their manifesto. Having myself recently written against lowering the voting age, I was keen to question him on why his party was committed to giving 16 year olds the vote.
He said: “This was led by what happened in Scotland [when 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote in the Independence Referendum] which we thought was incredibly healthy. We think there is a democratic deficit in this country the way Westminster politics works, and what we saw in the Scottish independence referendum was amazing. The engagement with the country and young people in particular was fantastic.”
Dr Peedell ends on a optimistic yet rather ominous note - he believes his party will go “from strength to strength”, but only because they were the first ones to warn the public about the potential peril the NHS is in.