1. The Lib-dem position on the NHS:
Question: What is your personal position on the NHS?
Answer (Simon Bailey): My position is my party's position - it's very simple, and very clear - I want our NHS to remain taxpayer funded, and free at the point of need.
2. The NHS and privatisation:
Question: Would you vote to stop NHS contracts going to private companies?
Question: Do you support privatisation or would you oppose more NHS contracts going to private companies?
Answer (Simon Bailey): I support a pragmatic balance between use of private providers to deliver non-core services (like supplies of equipment, construction of buildings etc.) where cost is a primary factor vs. public sector provision of core-services (like GP surgeries, paramedic/ambulance services etc.) where patient care, not cost, is the priority.
I do not agree with the arguments, that there can be no private providers in the NHS, or at the other extreme, that NHS services should be completely privatised. I'm interested in what works, not political dogma.
My priority is ensuring the NHS can deliver the best quality of patient care for tax payers. My concern on this matter is that there is no clear agreement on which services are suitable for provision by private suppliers and which need to be retained and delivered by public sector. I am therefore committed to securing a moratorium and public consultation on the role of private providers in delivering NHS services should I be successfully elected. Where NHS services are delivered by private providers, we need to ensure we have strong public supplier management and legal teams within the NHS, who are able to keep suppliers in check and ensure the public gets what has been tendered.
Without this clear distinction, we risk fragmenting the very people and capabilities (skilled doctors, nurses etc) we need to run an effective health service, thereby increasing the cost and complexity involved in delivering a world class NHS.
3. The NHS and TTIP:
Question: Would you help make sure the NHS is not opened up to the US health industry, by voting against TTIP unless it excludes healthcare?
Question: Would you vote in favour of the TTIP trade deal with America, or would you demand safeguards to make 100% sure our health service is kept out of it?
Answer (Simon Bailey): It is impossible to answer these question without fully reading the TTIP proposal. As this is still being negotiated, I do not feel able to provide a yes/no answer at this stage (March 2015). The only scenario I envisage I would vote against TTIP is, if upon receiving the final draft TTIP proposals, I felt that those NHS services that have been deliberately excluded from private sector provision (see response to Qu 2 above) were at risk in some way.
4. The NHS and funding:
Question: Would you vote to fund the NHS properly?
Question: Do you support the squeeze on NHS funding or would you support an increase in NHS funding to guarantee it gives us a quality service?
Answer (Simon Bailey): I am proud that my party is the only major UK party pledging to invest an additional £8bn in the NHS in the next parliament - http://www.libdems.org.uk/nhs-funding-increase-8bn
I am also extremely proud of my party’s focus on improving mental health services - http://www.libdems.org.uk/childrens-mental-health-to-get-1_25-billion-boost
I firmly believe we need to have an open and honest conversation as a nation about the key factors influencing our NHS:
- The level of funding
- The scope of services
- The ease of access to the services
- The quality of services
- The ways in which those services are delivered
My party and I are committed to good quality, locally accessible NHS services and maintaining this provision requires the investment we are already proposing. This is why we are campaigning for a moratorium on changes to NHS service provision in West London, until more research is undertaken into travel times between our existing hospitals, including Charing Cross.
However, we have to recognise that the scope of the NHS is many times larger than when it was originally founded. As more and more expensive drugs, and new treatments come online in years to come, the pressure for that scope to increase further will be immense. The pot of money is not infinite, and therefore difficult decisions need to be made about which additional services the NHS provides (and therefore where new money comes from) and which it does not. We need to have a frank discussion about how we manage this challenge into the future, to ensure quality and access remain sound. This is an issue I will champion relentlessly if elected as your MP to parliament.