Doctors Standing for Parliament: The Liberal Democrats

Peter Russell

Disclosures

November 29, 2019

Medscape UK is talking to doctors who want to be MPs.

Dr Phillip Lee is a candidate for the Liberal Democrats.

He has already been an MP.

Actually, he has already been a Government minister.

   

Dr Phillip Lee - Image Credit: Dr Phillip Lee

However, Dr Lee, who practises part-time as a GP in Berkshire, was until earlier this year a Conservative.

He resigned from the party and crossed the floor of the House of Commons in September because he disagreed with the Conservative's stance on Brexit.

Having previously held the safe Conservative seat of Bracknell, Dr Lee now faces the formidable challenge of running against arch Brexiteer John Redwood in the neighbouring constituency of Wokingham.

Q&A

Why are you standing at the general election?

I've been an MP for 10 years. I went through the process of wanting to be one for almost 8 to 10 years before that.

I qualified as a doctor in 1999, and actually the longer I spent in practise, the more political I became. Every time I saw my patients, I saw the social context, their housing, their employment, or whatever. Invariably, it was stuff that was outside my control as a doctor. I became more politicised the more I did it.

I first ran for parliament in 2005 down in South Wales, and then got elected in 2010.

This time it's very different because I crossed the floor. I've left my party and I'm standing for a different party. It's been a different experience for me in a target seat. It's required a slightly different approach.

My motivation was always to try to make my country a better place.

So now you face one of the stalwarts of the 'leave campaign' John Redwood, in a Conservative safe seat. How do you view that prospect?

I've known him for many years. He is consistent on it [leaving the EU]. I just think he is consistently wrong.

And the reason I think he is wrong is that you only have to look at who works for the National Health Service, both in nursing and ancillary staff, and doctors. You can see that they aren't all British trained.

The NHS relies heavily upon foreign trained staff, and if you take into account social care staff, the same pattern emerges. So, on the staffing front, leaving the European Union makes no sense whatsoever.

In terms of the finances, there are ideas that are plastered down the side of a bus.

It's pretty evident that, okay, you get back the money that we contribute to the European Union members, but that is shared out across agriculture and everything else. The idea that every pound that we send to Brussels is going to be spent on the NHS is clearly nonsense.

But it's not just that.

Every economist who's worth his or her weight points towards the economy being smaller in 5 to 10 years' time because of leaving the EU than it would have been. That means a smaller tax revenue.

And if you're spending 50% plus of tax revenue on health and social care, and welfare, by definition if your tax take is less, you have less to spend on health, welfare, and social care.

The list of reasons why Brexit is bad for people's health is long.

I still work in the health service, albeit very part-time, because of politics being what it is.

The restructuring of the provision of care is long overdue but politically extremely toxic because it involves change in the way services are provided.

As a consequence, both major parties have always been weak on this.

What transferable skills do you think you could take from medicine to Westminster?

I think being able to listen and being able to communicate. I mean, doctors make good canvassers. I suspect that's because we're just one-on-one on the doorstep.

It's what we do as GPs.

So, I suspect that's ability to listen, to weigh the evidence, and make decisions.

When I was a minister, I found the pace of decision-making remarkably slow. I mean, if I worked at that pace in general practice, I would never go home.

If there's one thing that doctors are very good at, it's weighing up the evidence, making a decision, and taking responsibility for it – and doing that on a minute-by-minute basis throughout the day.

Actually, that skill set lends itself very well to ministerial life.

If you are a doctor, and standing as an MP in the December election, we'd like to hear from you – please  email us  .

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