A 'SAVE the NHS' party will consider running candidates in this region, its founder - a Middlesbrough cancer doctor - revealed at its launch today.

Dr Clive Peedell said the new 'National Health Action' (NHA) party aimed to put up 50 candidates at the next general election against MPs who back the government's controversial health revolution.

David Cameron, George Osborne, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Andrew Lansley - the previous Health Secretary, who pushed through the pro-market shake-up - will all face challenges.

Loading article content

But Dr Peedell played down suggestions of a head-to-head fight with William Hague, in Richmond, saying: "I don't think Mr Hague has much influence over health policy."

The doctor, a consultant clinical oncologist at James Cook University hospital, since 2004, was speaking to The Northern Echo at the Westminster launch of the NHA.

The idea is that respected medics - who believe the Health Act is "destroying the NHS" - will stand up for patients and professionals who are determined to save a collective service.

The inspiration is the 2001 success of Richard Taylor, a local doctor, who won a Midlands seat in protest over the closure of the local hospital's accident and emergency unit.

Dr Peedell said: "David Cameron and Andrew Lansley are the main creators of market-driven health policies which are destroying the NHS.

"NHA will send a clear message to the public that the NHS will be increasingly dismantled and handed over to the corporate sector - unless we fight to maintain it as a public service."

Critics say the Health Act - spite being watered down, after an outcry last year - will allow the creeping privatisation of the NHS, leading to a rump service, while most patients pay 'top-ups' for treatments.

Dr Peedell has become famous as a firebrand opponent on the BMA council, attacking both the current changes and Labour's pro-market reforms that paved the way for them.

In January, he - and David Wilson, a colleague at the James Cook Hospital - ran 160 miles from a statue of NHS founder Aneurin Bevan, in Cardiff, to Whitehall, in protest.

However, Dr Peedell has suggested he is reluctant to stand for parliament himself, preferring to fight for the NHS from his seat on the BMA's ruling body.

This week, he did hint he would run if there was a "real Blairite, right-winger" to challenge, adding: "If Alan Milburn was in parliament, I'd definitely run for election."

Apparently ruling out a challenge in Richmond leaves Redcar - held by Liberal Democrat Ian Swales - or other Tory-held seats in North Yorkshire as possible bids for office.

However, Labour is believed to be nervous about NHA splitting the anti-Coalition vote - potentially saving Tory MPs who would otherwise be defeated.