Cambridge medics attack Government health reforms

Ben Richardson 20 March 2012

Two Cambridge academics are among 240 doctors launching a campaign which aims to punish the Government by contesting Conservative and Liberal Democrat seats in the 2015 general election. The move reflects anger at the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill, which is due to enter its third and final reading in parliament despite considerable backlash from the medical community, including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing.

In a letter to The Independent on Sunday, the 240 doctors derided the reforms as “an embarrassment to democracy”, with “no democratic mandate from the electorate”. It goes on to say that the reforms are placing the “survival of the coalition Government above professional opinion, patient safety, and the will of the citizens of this country”.

Two Cambridge professors, Ann Louise Kinmonth CBE, Foundation Professor of General Practice and a Director of Clinical Studies at St John’s College, and John Yates, Emeritus Professor of Medical Genetics, were among the signatories. At the time of writing, neither had replied to The Cambridge Student clarifying whether they themselves intended to stand for election. Dr Lynda Bobrow, a retired consultant Histopathologist from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, has also signed the letter.

The campaign aims to have doctors contest at least 50 seats as independents, with deliberate focus on marginal constituencies and those held by MPs deemed most responsible. Jenny Bywaters, a retired consultant from Sheffield, has already put her name forward to contest Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency. The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s South Cambridgeshire seat, which contains Addenbrooke’s Hospital, also looks certain to be challenged, though it remains unclear whether this will be by one of the Cambridge signatories.

Richard Taylor, a former consultant who was elected as an independent MP for Wyre Forest in 2001 in protest at the downgrading of his local hospital, has been advising the doctors. He said: “The doctors selected as candidates need to be popular in their own areas and they have to portray what they stand for as a vital national issue. They will need an unpopular sitting MP or one who has voted the wrong way, so they must choose their targets wisely.”

The controversial Health and Social Care Bill will go through its third and final reading in the House of Commons today and is likely to be granted Royal Assent shortly afterwards. The Government has provoked anger among Labour politicians by refusing to publish the risk register, an internal civil service assessment of the risks posed by the government’s NHS reforms. Crossbencher Lord Owen lost a vote yesterday that would see the third reading delayed until the risk register was published, thanks in part to intervention from Lord Wilson of Dinton, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Ben Richardson