Keep Our NHS Public has produced a downloadable Hustings Guide to help supporters of the NHS to ask the right questions at hustings and campaigns events across the country. All politicians of all parties should be questioned properly – the NHS is in an existential crisis and needs a real, determined rescue package. We are producing lists of questions we believe should be put to the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates of various political parties, as well as some general NHS questions that could be put to any candidate.
In the third instalment of our hustings guide, (read the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parliamentary candidate hustings guides) here are our questions to parliamentary candidates (including incumbent MPs) standing for the Liberal Democrats:
Question 1: Why did Liberal Democrat MPs abstain on 23 October on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech which would have declared opposition to NHS privatisation?
Why we ask: Keep Our NHS Public, Health Campaigns Together, and all other major UK health campaigns supported the recent amendment and believe that it would have been a real step forward in stopping privatisation. No one bill brought by the opposition can reverse the privatisation agenda – that needs determined action by a government in office – but there’s no doubt that this was a chance to seriously obstruct the ongoing creep of NHS privatisation. Voters have a right to know why Liberal Democrat MPs refused to support it.
Question 2: The last time the Liberal Democrats were in government, they were co-architects of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which is the central motor of NHS privatisation today, requiring by law that all NHS service contracts are competitively tendered to private providers. Do you still defend the HSCA?
Why we ask: the steady privatisation of our NHS will continue until the Health and Social Care Act is repealed. Seven years after the act was passed, the unanimous opposition it provoked from health campaigners has been wholly vindicated, as growing privatisation has fragmented the NHS and undermined patient care. There is no way back to a fully public, universal NHS without repealing the HSCA.
Question 3: Do you categorically rule out supporting the Conservatives in the event of a Hung Parliament?
Why we ask: the destructive record of the current Government on the NHS was inaugurated by the 2010-2015 coalition government of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The party is currently led by a former coalition government minister, Jo Swinson, and has recently welcomed a raft of Conservative MPs who have defected due to the Brexit debate and are now standing as Liberal Democrat candidates. Cooperation with the Conservatives, in the election or in the next Parliament, is an absolute non-starter for campaigners who are committed to restoring a fully public and universal NHS.
Question 4: your party’s website declares the Liberal Democrats are “the only party with a clear plan for the NHS and social care.” Does this involving scrapping the NHS Long Term Plan, which most health workers see as disruptive, impractical, and an aid to further privatisation of NHS services?
Why we ask: the “NHS Long Term Plan” document published by the Government and NHS England earlier this year is a recipe for restructuring the NHS in a way that removes local accountability, and makes it hard or impossible for local residents and patients to speak out against closures, privatisations and reconfigurations. It also reorganises NHS services into huge hubs of assorted services referred to as “Integrated Care Systems” (ICS), which likewise lays the ground for easier bulk privatisation of services. Removing the Long Term Plan is an essential precondition of safeguarding, let alone improving, our NHS as a universal public service.
Question 5: The Liberal Democrats have recently called to scrap financial charges levied on migrants for using the NHS, as these charges are proving dangerous and discriminatory and doing nothing to help services. However, this policy originates in legislation passed by the coalition government – do the Liberal Democrats now recognise this policy was wrong from the start?
Why we ask: charging migrants to use NHS services doesn’t help our NHS – on the contrary, it puts migrant patients’ lives at risk and also undermines the solidarity and universality which is at the heart of a working NHS. These policies were initiated during the coalition under the 2014 Immigration Act, which the Liberal Democrats voted for (the Labour leadership at that time abstained on the Act, although the current Labour leader voted against it). We need an end to these policies and the Liberal Democrats, like all parties, must make clear where they stand