We are writing to you as concerned doctors and co-leaders of the National Health Action Party. We set up this party to defend and improve the NHS and hold to account politicians who betray its founding principles – of a universal, comprehensive service, free at the point of use and centrally funded.
The NHS is widely regarded as the Labour Party’s greatest political achievement. Yet the Labour Party has played a major role in the decline, dismantling and increasing privatisation of the NHS. The last Labour government embraced the Conservative Party’s pro-market policies, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) hospital building programme and a £20 billion “efficiency savings” programme. Your own party laid the groundwork for Andrew Lansley and the Coalition Government to force through their infamous, undemocratic and unpopular top-down reorganisation of the NHS.
The Labour Party is now said to be basing its election strategy on a promise to “save the NHS”, but you have a long way to go if that promise is to have any credibility with NHS staff and the public, particularly after your party’s broken manifesto pledge in 1997 to return the NHS to full public ownership.
Your current promise to repeal the Health Act simply does not go far enough. The only true way to save the NHS is to abolish the competitive market system with its associated costly and burdensome bureaucratic structure, which is estimated to account for at least 15% of the total NHS budget, and which has led to deterioration in patient care.
We note your party's commitment to exempt the NHS from the damaging Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but without an end to the competitive market, even an exemption will be futile. Additionally, we believe there are powerful reasons to oppose the treaty in its entirety.
As importantly, Labour must address the projected NHS funding black hole of £30 billion by 2020, which will require an increase in NHS spending of at least 4% per year. However, we believe your mooted plans to raise National Insurance contributions to fill the NHS funding gap are regressive and that general taxation is a much fairer way to raise the necessary funds.
The National Health Action Party therefore supports a temporary rise in income tax to be used specifically to address the NHS funding gap. This would be for a transitional period while other policies bring in new revenue streams.
Further funds could be accumulated by cracking down on tax dodging, estimated to be costing the Treasury over £100 billion.
Labour must also urgently address the scandal of PFI contracts, the total cost of which is now in excess of £70 billion with the annual cost to the NHS of more than £2 billion, and which is bankrupting some trusts.
The NHA Party believes that without significant, immediate injections of extra funding the NHS, already reeling from five years of frozen spending and rising pressures, will run into total crisis even under Labour's watch with you as Prime Minister. A strong commitment to tackling the social determinants of health are also fundamental to improving the health of the nation and reducing demand on the NHS. Yet, Labour’s continued support for austerity policies will only worsen wealth and health inequalities, fuelling rather than solving the problem, and ignores important evidence to support an increase in healthcare spending as a way of boosting economic growth.
We therefore believe that the Labour Party’s claim to be the “party of the NHS” lacks legitimacy on many levels and we feel morally obliged to continue our political mission to truly stand up for the NHS by informing the public about what is happening to it, challenging the politicians who have betrayed it, and calling for it to returned fully to the public domain. Only then, will the NHS once again truly belong to the people.
Dr Clive Peedell & Dr Richard Taylor
Co-leaders of the National Health Action Party