PAUL STAINTON: A brand new political party is stepping onto the scene today, and one of their key aims is to unseat a Cambridgeshire MP. The founders of the National Health Action Party say the NHS is currently being destroyed by Government reforms, which have been led by the MP for South Cambridgeshire of course, Andrew Lansley. Now we can speak to Dr Richard Taylor, retired hospital doctor, and one of the founders of the new political party. Morning.
RICHARD TAYLOR: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this going to be a nationwide party?
RICHARD TAYLOR: This certainly is going to be a nationwide party. It started with a large number of doctors who wrote to the Independent on Sunday last March, saying how angry we were at the changes that are being made to the National Health Service, when the Coalition Government got in on a promise that it wasn’t going to do any more top-down reorganisations of the NHS. Then as soon as it gets in, we discover that they’d been planning these sorts of changes for years and years. We don’t object to more involvement of doctors in commissioning. That’s perfectly reasonable, if it actually happens. But we do object to opening up the NHS to a much wider market.
PAUL STAINTON: Well doesn’t the NHS need reform though.
RICHARD TAYLOR: Of course it needs changes. One of the greatest disappointments to me, I was on a Health Committee, Health Select Committee, all the time I was an MP, and towards the end of our work in 2010 we did reports on patient safety, on commissioning, and on value for money. And those three reports told the incoming government exactly what needed to be done to improve the Health Service without the need for an Act of Parliament. It’s the rush towards privatisation. Because the market in health care leads to cherry-picking of the easy things, and leaving with the National Health the difficult things, the emergencies, the major things that are still unpredictable and difficult to price.
PAUL STAINTON: Are people going to vote for a one-issue party though? Because that’s been UKIP’s problem hasn’t it?
RICHARD TAYLOR: This is exactly what people told me before I was an MP. You need a single very strong issue to get elected. But once you’re elected it’s absolutely impossible to be a single-issue MP.
PAUL STAINTON: This is just a stunt though, isn’t it? Attacking Andrew Lansley, isn’t it?
RICHARD TAYLOR: No no. It’s not a stunt at all. It’s nationwide, and we’re determined to get a reasonable number of MPs who are not ruled by a major political party whip.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s a reasonable number? How many?
RICHARD TAYLOR: Well, ten, twenty, thirty. We might try and put up as many as fifty.
PAUL STAINTON: That takes a lot of money doesn’t it? How are you going to fund it?
RICHARD TAYLOR: The beauty of doing it today, which is the day of the Police Commissioners’ election, is that you contrast the expense. To stand as a Police Commissioner you have to give a deposit of £5000. And in West Mercia, which is my area, covering three counties, they’re allowed to spend up to £168,000 in expenses. Now when I was first elected, the deposit, and it’s still the same, is only £500. And my first election campaign in 2001 cost only £5000.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes but you’ve got to fund it now haven’t you? You’ve got to advertise. You’ve got to tell people. And one of the big criticisms of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections is that nobody’s had any money to produce any leaflets, or tell people what’s going on, or what they stand for. How are you going to get that message across with very little money?
RICHARD TAYLOR: We have already got, since we launched the web, a large number of members coming in. We’ve got a subscription system. And we don’t see any real problem in raising this sort of amount of money, because as I say it is so much cheaper than the Police Commissioner posts, and it’s quite possible.
PAUL STAINTON: What colour are you going to have on your rosette, by the way?
RICHARD TAYLOR: We haven’t got to the point of speaking of that. I’m a member of my own small party that I represented when I was ..
PAUL STAINTON: How many have you got?
RICHARD TAYLOR: How many what?
PAUL STAINTON: Parties.
RICHARD TAYLOR: How many parties? I’m a member of two parties, and with the Electoral Commission one is certainly allowed to be that. But what I’m expecting is that my small party at home will affiliate with this much bigger national party, and there won’t be a conflict.
PAUL STAINTON: All right then. Let me read you this statement from the Department of Health Richard, if you don’t mind.
RICHARD TAYLOR: Of course. Love to.
PAUL STAINTON: Here we go. “There’s no reason for this party to exist. The founding principles of the NHS are not only being protected by the Government, but enhanced and extended. We are taking bureaucracy out of the NHS, putting doctors and nurses ..” (LAUGHTER IN THE BACKGROUND) Easy. Wait for the punch line. .. “We’re taking bureaucracy out of the NHS, putting doctors and nurses in charge at local level through our reforms, and being clearer with public about what they can expect from their health service through their NHS mandate we published earlier this week.” Then laugh.
RICHARD TAYLOR: It’s absolutely marvellous that we’ve got people so worried that they’re putting out formal statements.
PAUL STAINTON: Really?
RICHARD TAYLOR: The one thing that Bevan organised when he started the NHS back in the 1940s was common pay scales for doctors and nurses across the whole country. Immediately the best doctors, the best nurses, could work anywhere for the same money. So it wasn’t only London that had the best doctors. We’ve got really first-class centres in Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, because people could work wherever for the same money.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s a very complicated issue though isn’t it? Richard. A very complicated issue the NHS, isn’t it? How are you going to simplify it? What’s your slogan going to be? How are you going to get through to your average member of the public and get them to vote for you?
RICHARD TAYLOR: We are going to keep a very careful eye on the things that go wrong with the Health Service in the next few months and years. And already we’re getting problems coming up with places like Hinchinbrooke. The nurses are beginning to complain that there are reductions in nurses. And so we’re going to watch these, and we’re quite sure that the NHS will remain right at the top of people’s concerns for the next two or three years.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s your slogan Richard?
RICHARD TAYLOR: Action for the Nation’s Health.
PAUL STAINTON: Thank you Richard.