Labour must hope we have short memories. Andy Burnham has pledged to reverse the coalition's NHS reforms, concerned the government is “breaking down and privatising” our healthcare. His plans have already been described as an effective re-nationalisation. As a doctor I'm thrilled – any halt to the poorly conceived and hurriedly implemented Health and Social Care Bill has got to be good news.
But the Shadow Health Secretary may have forgotten his party's history. Throughout the noughties Labour expanded PFI (public finance initiatives) into healthcare. These public-private partnerships built NHS infrastructure worth £11bn, but they'll cost the public £79bn in repayments. This dwarves the £20bn savings asked for by the current government. The patchwork privatisation of the NHS is New Labour's legacy - the coalition are just finishing what they started.
I can't trust Labour with the NHS. Andy Burnham may have the best of intentions, but politicians' pledges don't always hold true. They may position themselves as the alternative to the coalition, but Labour's heritage doesn't give me confidence in their ability to maintain the NHS without help.
A rumour is circulating amongst doctors: a new, independent political party, set to campaign against all forms of NHS privatisation. Where medical professionals can fight eye-to-eye against politicians hoping to dismantle our NHS. The National Health Action (NHA) party will seek to challenge politicians where it matters - their parliamentary seat.
Dr Clive Peedell, founder of the NHA party, will act as co-chairman with Dr Richard Taylor. A physician and former MP, Dr Taylor has experience of fighting for what he believes in. In 2001, when his local A&E was threatened with closure, Dr Taylor stood as an independent candidate against the landslide New Labour incumbent. He won, with a majority of 18,000. Together the two doctors hope to field up to fifty candidates in the next election, cherry-picking key seats to attain representation in the House of Commons.
The NHA party could be a tremendous force for good. Today's government was meant to be the fairest, most moderate yet, thanks to Lib Dem checks on Conservative power. But a coalition where the smaller party abandon their principles and toe a line of uncompromising dogma is no true partnership.
With enough seats in 2015, the NHA party could form a coalition with either of the big parties. They could create absolute guarantees on core health principles to ensure the quality and security of our NHS for the next parliament. No more worthless pledges.
And even without executive power, having doctors in the Commons could allow the NHS to have true representation in parliament. The former Secretary of Culture, Media and Sport has few credentials to justify his position as tacit head of the country's health service. Giving doctors a political platform could redress this imbalance.
Many doctors don't like to get involved in politics. It interferes in treatment, meddles with budgets, and has the potential to create inequality across healthcare that no medicine can remedy. So when physicians finally take up arms, it is because they feel there is no other choice. Opposition has been resolute from the first introduction of the NHS reforms. But pleas from the BMA and Royal Colleges were disregarded, because they could be.
Without a true challenge on the floor of the Commons, the government only have to listen to themselves. Come the next election, doctors might give them something to hear.Reuse content