Health bosses condemn ‘outright lies’ of election campaign

Doctors tell parties to stop using the NHS as ‘vote-bait’

Doctors working for the NHS
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Doctors have condemned the two main political parties, accusing the Tories and Labour of preparing to tell “outright lies” about the NHS during the campaign.

In what The Times describes as an “unprecedented attack,” the professional standards group for Britain’s 220,000 doctors attacked politicians for treating the NHS as “vote-bait”.

As the health service becomes a central battleground for the election campaign, Carrie MacEwen, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, says politicians should not treat the NHS merely as a “surefire way of getting a round of applause on Question Time”.

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Writing for The Times, she said: “The NHS’s role is to manage the health of the nation, not to be used as a tool to swing voters in a three-way marginal.”

She condemned the “illusory promises and the dog-whistle rhetoric that we have already heard” from politicians and made a plea for protection “from the ill-informed MP in search of re-election”.

Adding that “undeliverable promises simply set the NHS up to fail” she said that she fears “in these febrile times we will see irrational, undeliverable promises or even outright lies”.

Focus on the NHS is intensifying in 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”.

Sky News says Labour is publishing data that suggests that the rate of NHS operations cancelled due to staff shortages and equipment failures is up by a third in two years.

The Tories are insisting that they will increase spending on the health service but in a separate article for The Times, Chris Hopson is CEO of NHS Providers, told parties not to turn the NHS into a political weapon.

Hopson said “over dramatising NHS difficulties” or making “disingenuous” funding claims did the service “no favours”.

He encouraged politicians to “look beyond” hospitals and find solutions to a staffing crisis and the crumbling social care system, asking politicians not to use the NHS as a “political weapon”.

Whether the health chief’s appeal will make a difference to how politicians campaign remains to be seen. The BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym wrote: “The NHS always features prominently in election campaigns. It is unrealistic to expect the parties to dial down their highly charged debates on the subject.”

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