Doctors plan Clegg election challenge

Dr Jenny Bywaters
Dr Jenny Bywaters

DOCTORS in Sheffield are planning to challenge Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg at the next election in protest at the Government’s health reforms.

Four local medics have joined a national coalition of 240 doctors who will try to unseat leading Lib Dem and Tory MPs at the next election.

In a letter, the doctors said: “We believe the Parliamentary passage of the Health and Social Care Bill has been an embarrassment to our democracy. These drastic changes have no democratic mandate.

“We are shocked by the failure of the democratic process and the facilitating role played by the Liberal Democrats.”

The signatories include consultant neurologist Dr Richard Grunewald, Page Hall GP Dr Trish Evans, retired GP Dr CM Richards and retired public health consultant Dr Jenny Bywaters.

Dr Bywaters, who worked for the Department of Health before she retired, said: “This bill is an affront to democracy.

“It wasn’t in the coalition agreement and I think a lot of people feel it is not what they voted for.”

She said campaigners had not yet discussed who would stand in the election, or which constituencies they would target, but said: “It is a possibility that I will stand.”

Dr Bywaters, aged 64, whose Millhouses home is in Mr Clegg’s Hallam constituency, added: “I think these reforms will lead to fragmentation of the health service, and the new Clinical Commissioning Groups may not be obliged to offer everything that is currently offered in the NHS.”

Ministers say the reforms will hand control over health budgets to GPs and reduce bureaucracy. But Dr Bywaters said: “The skills of GPs are very great but they are not trained in commissioning.”

Dr Grunewald, based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said he would not stand for parliament himself, but added: “People will vote for a candidate who would promote the reversal of the more dangerous aspects of this bill. The NHS is such a complex organisation that any small change will have unforeseen ramifications. It needs evolution, not revolution.”

Dr Evans said: “This is a destructive bill that undermines the founding principles of the NHS. We need to protect the service for our patients.”