Stop weaponising the NHS! Health service chiefs condemn Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson and warn them against making ‘undeliverable promises’ to win votes at the election
- Carrie MacEwen from Academy of Medical Royal Colleges issues poll warning
- She said doctors fear politicians will make ‘irrational, undeliverable promises’
- Urged Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson not to engage in ‘easy electioneering’
Health service bosses have told Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn not to weaponise the NHS during the general election campaign and warned them against making ‘undeliverable promises’.
Carrie MacEwen, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges which represents the UK’s 220,000 doctors, said politicians were guilty of using the NHS as ‘vote bait’.
Urging the two main parties not to engage in a health service bidding war in the run up to December 12, Ms MacEwen said the NHS must ‘not to be used as a tool to swing voters’.
She also claimed doctors are afraid that the two main parties will tell ‘outright lies’ about the NHS during the election campaign.
The pointed intervention comes after both the Tories and the Labour Party have already made clear that the NHS will be a key focus for both of their respective bids for votes.
Mr Johnson has visited numerous hospitals since he became Prime Minister with health one of a handful of domestic priorities – along with the police and schools – which will form the backbone of the Conservatives’ campaign.
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn and the Labour Party have made claims the Tories will sell off the NHS to the US in a post-Brexit trade deal – repeatedly denied by the Conservatives – a central plank of their push for power.
Boris Johnson, pictured during a visit to the National Institute for Health Research at the Cambridge Clinical Research Facility in Addenbrooke’s Hospital on October 31, is expected to focus heavily on the NHS during the election campaign
Jeremy Corbyn, pictured on October 30 during a visit to Crawley Hospital, has repeatedly accused the Tories of plotting to sell off the NHS to the US in a post-Brexit trade deal
Writing in The Times, Ms MacEwen said: ‘Loud calls for more resources or “to save our great NHS” are, as every politician knows, guaranteed vote bait.
‘Catnip to the undecideds and a surefire way of getting a round of applause on Question Time. This cannot be right.
‘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 added: ‘Our fear is that when it comes to the NHS in these febrile times we will see irrational, undeliverable promises or even outright lies.’
She attacked Labour’s plans for a nationalised drugs company as she questioned who would pay for the research to create the promised new, cheaper medicines.
She also criticised the Tories for announcing funding for 40 new and improved hospitals when cash is actually only in place for six.
‘This is easy electioneering aimed at a soft target,’ she said.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said doctors were right to hold politicians to account.
‘Hospital leaders and doctors groups and nurses groups are right to hold us politicians to account, they are right to scrutinise us, they are right to scrutinise Boris Johnson when he claims he is rebuilding 40 new hospitals and it turns out he is only rebuilding six,’ he said.
‘They are right to put us under the microscope. But by the same token I am passionate about the NHS and I’m afraid I am angry.’
Jon Ashworth, pictured with Mr Corbyn at Crawley Hospital, said doctors were ‘right to hold us politicians to account’
Cabinet minister Therese Coffey, the Work and Pensions, said the NHS is the ‘people’s priority’ and the Tories would ensure it is ‘well invested in’.
‘The promises are genuine, we have already increased the budget for the NHS, that is why we have already made these commitments, six hospitals ready to go to get on with that construction, 34 other hospitals getting in place their business plans for the future,’ she said.
‘It is important that we make sure that we are investing in the NHS for the benefit of patients.’
She added: ‘It is not about trying to use this as a political football, it is very much the people’s priority, and certainly the priority of the Conservatives, to make sure that our NHS which is very much cherished is well invested in and is delivering for patients.’