The chief executive of the Sussex Beacon has spoken about his concerns that parliamentary candidates are signing a pledge on the NHS that places hospices and health charities at risk.
Simon Dowe said that if politicians honoured the pledge then they would effectively be nationalising the services provided by the Beacon. He was speaking yesterday as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt visited the charity’s Brighton base.
Mr Hunt praised the Sussex Beacon and said: “The success of this place was that it wasn’t dreamt up by a minister in Whitehall.
“I want to work more with voluntary organisations and I’m worried that some candidates in other parties take a very different line.”
Mr Dowe said: “The inference within the pledge is that they would nationalise the NHS. As a third sector organisation, that would exclude us from that funding.
“It would directly endanger our future.
“It would be a huge loss to the community in Brighton. The service that we provide is crucial to the community and probably couldn’t be provided by the NHS.
“The only way I can see a future for the NHS is through working in partnership with the voluntary sector.”
Simon Kirby, who is hoping to be re-elected as the MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “People at places like the Beacon, the Martlets and Macmillan nurses must be worried by candidates who have signed the pledge.
“They all work hard to deliver brilliant care and they all have a part to play in delivering health services and we don’t want that put at risk. You can’t put ideology before the delivery of services.”
Among the parliamentary candidates to have signed the NHS pledge are all three Greens in Brighton and Hove – Caroline Lucas, Davy Jones and Christopher Hawtree – and two of the three Labour candidates – Nancy Platts and Purna Sen.
It commits them to opposing private provision of NHS services and supporters have called for all provision to be by the state. Critics point out that this would affect hospices, charities and even pharmacies and family doctors.
Peter Kyle, who is standing for Labour in Hove, has refused to sign the pledge and explained his reasons at a hustings organised by Sussex Defend the NHS.
He said: “I agree with a lot of what’s in the pledge but I’m a champion of local and national charities. I can’t sign a pledge that says it will bring all voluntary sector work in-house.”
While visiting the Sussex Beacon, which offers specialist care and support for men, women and families affected by HIV, Mr Hunt also said: “I’m proud of our record working with the gay community. We introduced gay marriage despite a lot of opposition.”
He added: “The whole centre of gravity in the NHS has to move more towards prevention rather than cure – helping people to live well.”
And he said that the Beacon, with its holistic approach, offered lessons for others elsewhere and for those caring for people with other chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Afterwards the Health Secretary visited a derelict church in Blatchington Road, Hove. He met Hove Conservative candidate Graham Cox at the disused Holy Trinity which is to become a new doctors’ surgery.