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Hampstead and Kilburn hustings: Tories have starved the NHS of money, claims Labour’s Tulip Siddiq

Conservative rival Claire-Louise Leyland says her party in power has protected investment in the health service

02 June, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Candidates in Hampstead and Kilburn came together for election hustings in Carlton Vale

LABOUR’S Tulip Siddiq accused the government of leaving the NHS critically underfunded after candidates contesting the knife edge Hampstead and Kilburn constituency were asked whether they would fight privatisation of health services.

Speaking at the South Kilburn hustings on Wednesday evening, she said “of course I do not want to see the NHS privatised” before adding: “Look at the local area, the A&E at Central Middlesex closed because of a lack of funding, out of 74 pharmacies in this area 23 are at risk because of a lack of funding, the 18 month target for waiting for operations has been scrapped, and you have to wait four or more hours to be seen at A&E – but not the one at central Middlesex because it only deals with burns and sprains, so you have to travel further. The BMA, which is an independent body, has said, the reason why the NHS is in the position that it is in is because it is chronically underfunded.”

She added: “The only way we will get a good service in the NHS is to invest in it properly but not just invest in our hospitals, pharmacies and GP surgeries, but also to invest in our mental health services which have really been ignored by the government. Mental health issues are on the rise and we don’t have enough funding for that. Let me also make something else clear: when people talk about the NHS, people do not mention the doctors and nurses, the way the doctors and nurses have been treated over the junior doctors contracts has been absolutely shameful.”

All six candidates on the ballot paper in Hampstead and Kilburn were asked whether they would fight privatisation in the NHS.

Conservative Claire-Louise Leyland, Ms Siddiq’s chief rival for the seat at next week’s general election, insisted the Tories had protected investment in the NHS and would expand spending, although she told the hustings at the Granville Community Centre that there was also a place for non-NHS providers to take on work, citing the example of Macmillan nurses who help cancer patients.

“I do think that it’s important we acknowledge that demand is increasing and expectations are increasing but also that people acknowledge that the Conservatives have protected and increased health funding – and have committed to doing more of the same,” said Ms Leyland, the leader of the Conservative group on Camden Council.  “The model we have been developing between local government and the NHS has really transformed some of our services. They have been co-designed with the community, they have been bringing in the community and voluntary sectors so we are all working together. And you must remember that non-NHS providers have always been a part of the picture. Macmillan nurses are a wonderful example of a non-NHS provider who come in and do an extraordinarily good service that is tailored to the needs of local people.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Kirsty Allan said the audience needed to know that privatisation of health services had begun under Tony Blair’s Labour government.

“I personally don’t like private investment in the NHS but there are circumstances where it makes sense,” she said. “If you are able to pick up a service as a local hospital which has a very, very stretched budget, for a lot less from a private provider then that makes sense if you are a local trust struggling at the moment,” she said. “We want to make sure that the health service has the investment it needs. It will be paid for by one penny on every bracket of income tax, which will raise over six billion to be invested back into the NHS and social care. That’s one billion directly for mental health services, two billion for social care to make sure it’s properly invested in and people aren’t actually stripped of all their assets when they end up with a degenerative disease later in life, and people can go to hospital and get the treatment that they need.”

Green candidate John Mansook said: “The creeping privatisation has been going on for a long time, I work in the NHS and have friends and family which receive treatment from the NHS and we are actually at the stage now where things which would have been free a long time ago, now it’s normal for people to pay for it. Things like the other day I read in the papers that you have to pay for phone calls just to let relatives know you are in hospital. I think that’s actually a disgrace.”

He added: “If we continue along this route it’s just going to get worse with inflation going up and we really have to consider what is going to happen to people who really can’t afford private healthcare. Are they going to be left by the wayside to suffer in silence? I think personally we really need to stop the privatisation of the NHS once and for all and don’t leave any doors open to allow any creeping privatisation because we have seen what it has led to, with our many specialist services being contracted out to private agencies and it has just led to a whole problem for people who are actually suffering.”

Independents Hugh Easterbook, running on a ‘smarter Brexit’ ticket, and Rainbow George Weiss were also on the stage.

“I have no firm position one way or another,” said Mr Easterbrook on the issue of health funding. “I think it should be put in the hands of the people managing the hospitals to make the best decisions.” He warned that the consequences of Brexit would make debates about NHS spending look “like a relative sideshow”.

Mr Weiss said: “All privatisation is theft.”

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