HEALTHCARE could buckle under “consumerist” demand on the NHS, voters in Chandler’s Ford were warned at their General Election hustings.
Demand for swift care, stoked by political promises, is stretching services including a struggling GP surgery in the town, according to Conservative incumbent Steve Brine.
On Wednesday night around 250 people turned out to a Q&A session with Winchester and Chandler’s Ford’s five prospective MPs: Mr Brine, Liberal Democrat Jackie Porter, UKIP’s Martin Lyon, Labour’s Mark Chaloner and Green candidate Michael Wilks.
Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church heard largely harmonious debate on housing, climate change, potential Westminster coalitions and English votes for English laws (EVEL).
But on the NHS, Mr Brine said: “We have a consumerist society in this country and that consumerism has spread into the National Health Service.
“We are raising expectations so much around the National Health Service and our health professionals are buckling under the pressure of that expectation.”
After criticising Labour’s guarantee of a GP’s appointment within 48 hours as unworkable, he added: “It has to be the clinicians that design the services, and the services have to be clinically deliverable.”
Ms Porter, Mr Brine’s main rival in May 7’s vote, said better working hours would boost recruitment, benefitting patients and staff.
She told the packed church: “If we had enough doctors at the right time of day, when we actually want to go and see them, we wouldn’t be asking our doctors to work ridiculous hours until much later in the evening.”
She also promoted a greater focus on pharmacists and mental health staff and sounded warnings about “sucking” local maternity services towards Basingstoke if plans go ahead for a £160 million emergency hospital in North Waltham. Mr Lyon blamed “complete mismanagement” over funding gaps.
Dr Wilks earnt rare mid-speech applause for condemning the Coalition’s NHS reorganisation, joined by Mr Chaloner who warned against growing privatisation.
But the candidates agreed on the need for more council or ‘affordable’ housing. Affordability was the most popular issue among voters who submitted questions.
Criticising Mr Brine’s comments to the Hampshire Chronicle, where he questioned whether Winchester’s Silver Hill development was the right place for discount flats, Dr Wilks said: “The need is for affordable housing in the right place, and that’s quite often in city centres, town centres, not way outside somewhere else, because then there’s all the transport to be paid for as well.”
Eastleigh Borough Council’s failed Local Plan is a “disaster” which could open the door to unwanted development in Chandler’s Ford, Mr Chaloner said.
Mr Brine and Labour candidate Mark Chaloner
Meanwhile, Mr Lyon, a UKIP Hampshire county councillor, promised “hope and vision” to counter a "lack of scrutiny" around local housing decisions.
He said: “Fundamentally, no one is asking the question of why we need 80,000 homes in Hampshire, really? Why do we need over 12,000 in Winchester, really? The answers we’re being given aren’t actually the real answers. The real answers are something entirely different – it’s not about a huge population explosion, far from it.”
After the meeting, Mr Lyon clarified: "The reason for mass house building is the historic high levels of immigration."