UK: Parties told not to use NHS for political games ahead of General Election 2019
Parties should not use the NHS as “a political weapon” in the election campaign, health service bosses say.
NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson said “over dramatising NHS difficulties” or making “disingenuous” funding claims did the service “no favours”.
Mr Hopson acts for health trust leaders in England and urged politicians not to make “empty promises” or create “unrealistic expectations”.
The NHS is set to become a key battleground during the campaign.
Speaking to the BBC, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said a Labour government would seek to end privatised contracts in the NHS, arguing the public didn’t want money “being poured into the pockets of profiteers”.
Pushed on whether an incoming Labour government would see the eradication of all privatisation in the NHS, Mr McDonnell said “we’ll see how those [existing] contracts run out”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also raised concerns that the NHS could be vulnerable to infiltration by American health companies in any post-Brexit trade deal with the US, saying he was “concerned about the relationship of the Tory party with the US government”.
However, the Conservatives have argued that the health service would be protected in any trade talks and have strongly denied that the NHS is “up for sale”.
In the course of the campaign, the Tories are expected to trumpet extra NHS spending, including a £2.7bn investment for six hospitals in England over five years and £100m for a further 34 hospitals to start developing future projects.
Writing on the Times website, Mr Hopson, who acts for hospitals and other health trust leaders, said voters were passionate about the health service, writing “the polls show it’s what makes us most proud to be British” .
He said it was “understandable that, come election time, politicians will look to harness that popularity, inevitably casting themselves as champions and defenders of the NHS”.
However, he warned “it becomes counter-productive when the NHS is used as a political weapon” – something he said leaders in the health service were worried was starting to happen in this campaign.
He acknowledged that there were areas where “the NHS is falling short”, arguing frontline services couldn’t keep up with “growing demand”.