Coalition 'has undermined NHS', doctors say in letter

A&E department Image copyright Science Photo Library

The government has "undermined and weakened" the NHS in England, a letter signed by 140 doctors says.

The letter - published in the Guardian - said the coalition's approach has been characterised by broken promises, cuts and destructive legislation.

And it warned the squeeze was "hitting patients" with pressures growing on A&E units and hospital waiting lists.

But the Conservatives rejected the claims - and suggested it had been orchestrated by Labour.

The letter was organised by Dr Clare Gerada, a Labour member and former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, but she denied the party had had any input into it.

Signatories include Sir George Alberti, who worked as an emergency care tsar under Labour, Dr Laurence Buckman, a London-based GP and former senior member of the British Medical Association, and Prof John Ashton, a retired director of public health and president of the Faculty of Public Health.

Dr Helena McKeown, a GP from Wiltshire and Liberal Democrat councillor, also signed the letter.

'Primary concern'

The letter said: "The NHS is withering away and if things carry on as they are then in future people will be denied care they once had under the NHS and have to pay more for health services.

"As medical and public health professionals our primary concern is for all patients. We invite voters to consider carefully how the NHS has fared over the last five years."

In particular, the letter went into detail about the government's reforms, saying they had led to a "rapid and unwanted expansion of the role of commercial companies".

A Conservative Party spokeswoman described the group as a "small number of doctors" and pointed out that some of them were Labour supporters and advisers.

"The facts are clear: we have cut the number of managers and increased funding for the NHS so we can have 9,500 more doctors and 6,900 nurses treating patients.

"The NHS in England continues to perform better than other parts of the UK, with patients more likely to be seen within four hours in A&E than in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland."

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