UKIP defends 'misleading' NHS photo election leaflet

Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent
Image caption The Medway NHS Foundation Trust was put into special measures in July 2013

UKIP has defended a campaign leaflet for the Rochester and Strood by-election after claims a photo used implied NHS support for the party.

The chairwoman of Medway Hospitals NHS Trust wrote to candidate Mark Reckless to complain about "misleading" information in his campaign leaflets.

Shena Winning said a picture of the trust's acting chief executive with Mr Reckless suggested the NHS backed UKIP.

Mr Reckless said the photo showed his support for the hospital.

'Out of context'

Ms Winning's letter to former Conservative MP Mr Reckless said board directors were "extremely concerned and surprised" to see the picture of him with Dr Phillip Barnes.

Ms Winning said the photograph had been taken in September when Mr Reckless was the sitting MP for Rochester.

Mr Reckless defected to UKIP on 27 September, triggering a by-election in which 13 candidates are standing.

The NHS chairwoman said UKIP did not seek permission to use the photograph and the use of the image was "misleading and out of context".

BBC South East's political editor Louise Stewart said problems at Medway Maritime Hospital, which was placed in special measures over a year ago, had become a focus for all parties in the by-election campaign but the issue had now become the focus of a row.

Mr Reckless replied to Ms Winning saying the photograph showed his engagement with the hospital as a local MP.

"The photograph in no way implies that Dr Barnes supports me in this election or otherwise, senior NHS staff of course being politically neutral.

"The text does, however, I hope make clear my support for Dr Barnes and his team at the hospital," he said.

Mr Reckless said the leaflet in which the photograph is used had been fully distributed, but he confirmed the photograph would not be used again in any other leaflet ahead of the by-election.

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