Two leading doctors' groups have pleaded with politicians not to use the NHS to win votes during the election campaign.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and NHS Providers say the Conservatives and the Labour Party should not try to use the NHS to lure votes by making impossible promises which set the service up to fail.

Academy chairwoman Carrie MacEwen said the role of the NHS was to "manage the health of the nation, not to be used as a tool to swing voters in a three-way marginal".

"Both major parties say they want to spend the election talking about the NHS. Not only is it less divisive and easier to explain than Brexit but, unusually in this election, it's an issue on which both main parties think they can win," Professor MacEwen wrote in The Times.

"Loud calls for more resources or 'to save our great NHS' are, as every politician knows, guaranteed vote bait. Catnip to the undecideds and a surefire way of getting a round of applause on Question Time. This cannot be right.

"As the body that represents the UK's 220,000 doctors, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges calls for honest debate based on evidence of what works and realistic expectations."

Professor MacEwen called the NHS "a cherished institution" that must be zealously protected, appropriately resourced and sufficiently funded to ensure its sustainability.

"Our fear is that when it comes to the NHS in these febrile times we will see irrational, undeliverable promises or even outright lies," she wrote.

Professor MacEwen cited early examples of MPs politicising the NHS, such as Labour claiming a nationalised drugs company would make cheaper medicines, while not spelling out who would pay for research into new drugs.

She said the Tories had also flagged funding for 40 new hospitals, making it "disappointing to learn that in fact money had been allocated to just six".

NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson, also writing in The Times, urged politicians not to make "empty promises" or create "unrealistic expectations".

Mr Hopson said "over-dramatising or distorting the difficulties for political ends will do nothing to help those frontline staff who are working flat out for patients".

"Equally, disingenuous claims about extra funding, or promises that create unrealistic expectations, may be tempting in the heat of the election battle, but they do the health service no favours," he wrote.

He added that in the past the NHS had been "a serial victim of politicians slicing and dicing funding numbers and making empty promises that were never actually delivered".

Published: by Radio NewsHub
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