Tory candidate branded ‘callous’ over article questioning if NHS ‘worth fighting for’



NHS doctor Neil Shastri-Hurst, who is fighting a by-election campaign in North Shropshire, also said those ‘working on the Covid frontline are not heroes’

A would-be Tory MP has been branded “callous” over an article in which he questioned whether the NHS is “worth fighting for”.

Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst is fighting a by-election campaign in North Shropshire in the wake of the Tory sleaze scandal.

Blogs about the health services, which he deleted from before he became a candidate, have been passed to the Daily Mirror.

One article, which he said at the time was “intentionally” provocative and published on the Conservative Home site in 2015, claims the NHS is a “bottomless pit”.

He said: “The danger is that now we are fighting purely for the principle without considering how this is best achieved in a vastly different nation.

“The public expectations, the service demands, and the evolution of medical technologies mean that the NHS cannot be a bottomless pit of resources and money.

“Health rationing has always taken place but perhaps it is time to be more up front and honest about what we can realistically afford in a public system.”

The article remains on the Conservative Home website.

The article, entitled ‘Is The Current NHS Worth Fighting For?’, advocates “health rationing” and cutting back on certain treatments, saying: “Health rationing has always taken place but perhaps it is time to be more up front and honest about what we can realistically afford in a public system.

“Put simply, the public cannot expect that all treatments are available through a nationally funded healthcare service.”

It also appears to criticise the ‘free at the point of use’ principle, concluding: “The war raging over the NHS is based on a principle set up over 67 years ago.

“Whilst its core tenants hold some truth its current format is no longer meeting the demands put upon it.

“There is a real risk it is viewed through rose tinted glasses. The argument is oft based on the concept that the NHS is the best system in the world.

“This has held credence for such a long time because it is compared, quite correctly, favourably with the US system. This reality is not so binary.

There are examples of many successful publicly funded universal health care systems across the world. Many with outcome measures better than our own.

“Given the current standoff perhaps the only way back to the negotiating table is by being bold, being brave, and being honest about what any publicly funded health service can offer in the 21st Century.”

Another blog by the NHS doctor, published in 2020, said that those “working on the Covid frontline are not heroes” with “special powers”, but “a group of dedicated and skilled individuals pulling together for the greater good”.

He also dismissed the ‘clap for carers’ campaign as “embarrassing”.

Dr Shastri-Hurst said: “While the weekly round of applause is, of course, a deeply humbling and moving scene, I must admit that I have found it slightly embarrassing.”

He also claimed that the pensions triple lock, which the Conservatives broke a 2019 manifesto pledge to slash, was “no longer defendable”.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper called the comments “callous”, adding: “People will be disgusted that he’s said that the NHS is not worth fighting for, and that NHS workers on the frontline of the pandemic are not heroes.

“Families in North Shropshire deserve a strong local champion who stands up for better health services, not a Conservative who doesn’t even seem to believe in a publicly funded NHS that is accessible to all – Liberal Democrat Helen is that person.”

The Lib Dem candidate for North Shropshire, Helen Morgan added: “The Conservatives have taken our health services for granted for years in North Shropshire. There are more patients per GP, ambulance stations are closing and A&E wait times are skyrocketing.

“People at this election have a choice, they can vote for the Liberal Democrats who’ll fight for better health services in our area, or the Conservatives who will just continue to take this area for granted.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “When the pandemic struck, as a doctor Mr Shastri-Hurst stepped up to the plate and volunteered on the frontline of the NHS in trauma care.

“His articles repeatedly praise the skill, dedication and brilliance of the NHS and its staff and passionately argues the case, from experience, for ensuring NHS resources reach the frontline.”

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