By-election candidates are still refusing to answer questions on the NHS

With a likely win days away, UKIP candidate Mark Reckless still has not made his NHS policy clear.

With a likely win days away, UKIP candidate Mark Reckless still hasn’t made his party’s NHS policy clear

Candidates involved in the Rochester and Strood by-election are “showing contempt for the electorate” by failing to answer questions on their NHS policies, according to a candidate in neighbouring Maidstone and the Weald.

Dr Paul Hobday, who is standing for the National Health Action Party against Sports and Tourism Minister Helen Grant at the general election, says that he has only received one reply to a set of questions which he sent to by-election candidates early last week.

“The only candidate with any respect for the electorate is the Green, who has replied,” he said. “How is this democracy? They want votes but won’t declare what they stand for.”

The questions, which are listed in full below, focus on the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, funding, competition, hospital closures, the influence of the market within the NHS, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and pay.

Dr Hobday said that he sent the questions because “We, and I in particular, believe that this whole NHS debate is not really aired honestly in the public arena. Prospective parliamentary candidates can bluster their way through.”

He said that every candidate “certainly received the questions by Tuesday afternoon”. “If ordinary local people can’t pressure them to give straightforward answers to straightforward questions with plenty of notice, what does that say about democracy?”

However, the People Before Profit party, whose candidate Nick Long is standing in the by-elections, sent a tweet to Dr Hobday last Friday showing that they had in fact provided responses to the full list of questions on their website that week.

There were extra questions listed for UKIP candidate Mark Reckless, asking him to make clear his view on statements made by other leading figures in UKIP on the NHS. Mr Reckless looks certain to win the by-election, with bookmakers having already paid out on the result. Dr Hobday said that it was particularly important to know where the likely winner stood on the NHS.

“Reckless, who, at every stage, backed the Health and Social Care Act, says that he is now going to back the Labour Private Members Bill calling for a reversal of privatisation,” he said, referring to a Bill introduced by Clive Efford MP. “So he’s flipped 180 degrees.”

UKIP has not directly responded to a request for comment so far, except to provide their 2015 general election manifesto.

The manifesto’s commitments on the NHS include: “UKIP will ensure the NHS is free at the point of delivery and time of need for all UK residents,” “We will stop further use of PFI in the NHS and encourage local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts early where this is affordable,” and “UKIP opposes plans to charge patients for visiting their GP”.

It does not address any of the other issues raised by Dr Hobday, who says that they cannot be trusted on the NHS. “UKIP are a business party,” he said. “How can anyone expect them to put the NHS first?”

“Although they present themselves as being anti-establishment and anti-Westminster, they’ll end up being as bad as the rest.”

But Dr Hobday said that he was “not targeting any individuals here – the more cynical ones are the coalition parties”.

“If they lied in 2010, what are they lying about on this occasion?”

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The National Health Action Party was set up by a group of doctors in 2012 in response to the Health and Social Care Act. The questions that they have asked are as follows:

1. Would you vote to repeal in full the Health and Social Care Act

2. Do you support :

(a) the reversal of the privatisation of the NHS?

(b) an end to contracting out services to private companies?

(c) the return of services into public hands?

3. Do you agree the NHS market should be scrapped?

4. Do you agree NHS funding should be increased by a minimum of 4% per annum and brought into line with other G7 countries?

5. Will you call for a halt to cuts and closures of hospitals, A&E departments, maternity and other local services until suitable and accessible alternatives are in place? Decisions must be evidence-based and democratically supported by local clinicians and local people.

6. Will you oppose further PFI deals and agree to renegotiate existing PFIs on the basis of good value for the taxpayer?

7. Do you oppose any new charges for patients such as for GP visits and hospital stays?

8. Will you call for an exemption of the NHS from TTIP?

9. Do you support NHS strikers calling for the recommended 1% pay rise for NHS staff?

10. Do you agree that prescription charges should be scrapped?

The additional questions for Mark Reckless:

1. Will you apologise to voters and to the Medway Hospitals NHS Trust for misleading information in your campaign leaflets which suggest the NHS back UKIP?

2. Can you say which of these statements you agree with?

  • Nigel Farage (October 2014) would like big businessmen to run the NHS and thinks it’s ridiculous to protect the NHS from cuts.
  • Paul Nuttall (deputy Chairman) has called for “more free market in the NHS” and congratulated the Coalition for “bringing a whiff of privatization into thebeleaguered NHS”
  • Candidates Samuel Fletcher and Bradley Monk both would like the NHS scrapped, with the former requiring everyone to take out private health insurance.
  • Health Spokesperson Louise Bours wants to exempt the NHS from TTIP but Trade Spokesman William Dartmouth supports the inclusion of the NHS in TTIP.

Chris Sloggett is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter

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