I’ve been a GP in Lewisham for 20 years and led the campaign to save Lewisham hospital. I am standing as a candidate for the National Health Action party in the London region of the European elections because I feel the danger to the NHS is real and urgent.
Recent shocking news about GP practices in London unable to survive financially and facing closure and job insecurity; the King's Fund report that the NHS faces financial meltdown; hospital closures, cuts to mental health, maternity, community and social services; NHS contracts worth billions of pounds out to tender and the majority going to the private sector; the almost daily reports from the frontline of care that the system is cracking up; patient care suffering while staff morale plummets – these are not ordinary times. The unthinkable is starting to happen. If we don’t do anything we will lose our NHS.
NHS not unsustainable, just underfunded
The NHS is not unsustainable - it's underfunded and what money is in the system is being squandered on the market and PFI. This process could become irreversible unless the NHS is exempted from the EU-US trade treaty (TTIP) currently under negotiation, which would open up NHS services to US corporate takeover and enable companies to sue governments if they brought in laws that reversed privatisation.
This is happening below the radar of public awareness. As Michael Portillo said: 'They (the Tories) did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do'.The only way the destruction of the NHS can proceed is if the public remain ignorant and if the false explanations for the crisis - that it’s because the NHS is unaffordable or it’s the fault of GPs, or nurses, or immigrants - remain unchallenged.
We want to make the NHS an election issue, raise the level of debate and public awareness and show the parties of power that people really do care about the NHS and are not willing to let it be demolished. A good vote for the NHA in the London Euro election – hopefully winning an MEP seat – would have a huge impact and contribute significantly to the movement we need to defend the NHS.
- Dr Louise Irvine is a Lewisham GP, a trainer and programme director for GP training in Lewisham; chairwoman of Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign; a member of BMA Council and of the GPC