Council chair calls on Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders to address NHS decline

North Yorkshire County Council chair Jim Clark.

The chairman of North Yorkshire County Council has called for the NHS to be placed high on the agenda in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leadership contests.

North Yorkshire county councillor Jim Clark has pressed Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson to reveal their views over the future of the health service, saying they were all ministers in the Coalition government that oversaw a decline in the NHS in the county.

Cllr Clark, who led the authority’s scrutiny of health committee for more than a decade, said while the focus of the party leadership contests had centred around Brexit all four candidates needed to answer why the NHS deficit in the county had risen from £20m in 2012 to more than £40m last year.

He said residents in North Yorkshire deserved answers because as a result of the financial mess, four out of the county’s five clinical commissioning groups had been found to be acting unlawfully and the area had seen greater health rationing than elsewhere.

The Conservative councillor added: “However, the amount of money being spent on the NHS is not the issue. It is about how money is distributed and spent.

“My concern is to get the debate going, as very little has been mentioned about the NHS by the leadership candidates so far. This is one of the biggest issues in North Yorkshire and we should be looking at what the plans are, both for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

“Brexit is hopefully going to be over on October 31. We have lost a lot of beds in North Yorkshire, we have closed hospitals, so it is important that we have the experience of these former government ministers on where they think things can be improved. This is an opportunity to talk about health and we have major issues of health in North Yorkshire.”

Cllr Clark said he believed both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative politicians were all “guilty” of having played a role in introducing a system which has seen the county regularly lose out.

He said: “All four candidates were in Government when the major changes to the NHS came in the 2012 act, which has now been acknowledged as not having worked well in North Yorkshire. They are now changing it. Three clinical commissioning groups are merging, from next April, a fourth is merging with Bradford.”

Nevertheless, Cllr Clark said he believed Jeremy Hunt, the longest-serving Health Secretary, had more questions to answer than the others.

He said: “Jeremy Hunt needs to say why he did not support his colleague William Hague during the campaign to keep services at the Friarage Hospital and why there was a six-year fight over keeping children’s heart surgery at both Leeds and Newcastle.”