‘take Action To Defend NHS’

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Despite Tory leader Cameron’s protestations that he supports the NHS, it emerged yesterday that several leading Tory shadow cabinet members put their names to a manifesto calling for the NHS to be dismantled. These include close Cameron ally, shadow education spokesman Michael Gove.

The Tory leaders are listed alongside MEP Daniel Hannan as co-authors of a book, titled Direct Democracy, published shortly after the 2005 general election, which says the NHS ‘fails to meet public expectations’ and is ‘no longer relevant in the 21st century’. Others listed as co-authors, include shadow cabinet members Greg Clark, Jeremy Hunt and Robert Goodwill. Tory leader Cameron praised the book.

Gove is one of a group of more than 20 Tory MPs and MEPs who are cited as supporters of Hannan’s views in another book, The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain, published in December last year.

In this book, Hannan and Tory MP Douglas Carswell describe the NHS as ‘the national sickness service’.

Both books call for the NHS to be replaced by people having to pay money into personal health accounts, which they would then have to use to shop around for care from public and private providers.

Those who could not afford to save enough would be funded by the state.

Health secretary Andy Burnham commented: ‘This shows that, while Cameron says he is pro-NHS, he is at odds with a large section of his own party.’

Prime minister Gordon Brown broke off from his holiday on Saturday night to issue a statement declaring he would place the future of the NHS at the heart of the next general election. He said: ‘I will not stand by and see the NHS and its brilliant staff denigrated and undermined, whether that’s by the right wing in the United States or by their friends in the British Conservative party.’

US President Barack Obama’s stepmother has come out in defence of the NHS, saying that she owed her life to it. Kezia Obama, 66, who now lives in Bracknell, Berkshire, suffered chronic kidney failure on a visit to the UK seven years ago.

She told yesterday’s News of the World: ‘I was very down at the time, but luckily I was here in Britain, in what was then a foreign country to me, where the doctors, nurses and surgeons cared for me like I was their own child. It’s very simple. I owe my life to the NHS. If it wasn’t for the NHS I wouldn’t have been alive to see our family’s greatest moment – when Barack became president and was sworn into the White House.’

A public sector union Unison spokeswoman told News Line yesterday, ‘It just goes to show what we’ve always said – that the NHS is not safe in Tory hands. It’s just as well this has all come out now, as the Tories are trying to fool the electorate ahead of the next election.’

British Medical Association (BMA) General Council member, consultant surgeon Anna Athow yesterday called on the BMA leaders to urgently activate its Look After Our NHS campaign.

She said: ‘The fact is that the NHS provides a highstandard of comprehensive care for 60 million people free at the point of use. Despite all the twitters of New Labour leaders such as Gordon Brown and Andy Burnham health minister, the NHS is being steadily undermined by this government through covert privatisation.

‘The government is “stimulating the market” by forcing the Primary Care Trusts to give contracts to the private sector, such as Independent Treatment Centres taking elective surgery away from the DGHs, and Polyclinics taking patients away from their NHS GPs. PCTs are also inviting in multinational companies to bid for community services.

‘The defence of the NHS cannot be left to Brown and New Labour. Now is the time for the BMA and the trade unions to step up the campaign to keep the NHS in public hands and defend it.

‘The BMA must organise the march and rally that its members voted for at annual conference. NHSTogether, the TUC alliance of health unions, must be called upon to mount united action. It must support a march and rally through London calling on all health workers and the public to participate and to kick the privateers out of the NHS.’