Election 2017

Parties clash over Kent and Sussex NHS 'improvement'

Left to right - Piers Wauchope, UKIP, Kelly-Marie Blundell, Lib Dems, Peter Chowney, Labour, Natalie Graham, BBC presenter, Damian Collins, Conservative, Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Image caption Candidates from the five main parties clashed over the NHS as well as security issues, police funding and Brexit

A claim that two hospitals working to move out of special measures are good examples of NHS improvement has sparked a row between five political parties.

The Tories told a BBC debate Brighton's hospital was seeing major investment and East Kent NHS had improved.

But the Lib Dems said the NHS was "at breaking point", the Greens said there were huge shortages and Labour said more funds could be raised from taxes.

UKIP said the NHS was not free and sick or old people would end up paying.

Brighton's Royal Sussex County Hospital went into special measures last year after inspectors deemed it unsafe and poorly-led, and East Kent Hospitals Trust went into special measures in 2014, but last December the Care Quality Commission said it had improved.

A special debate held by BBC South East at the Kino-Teatr in St Leonards heard from candidates standing across Kent and Sussex for the five main parties in next week's general election.

Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption The debate heard claims the NHS had seen "significant improvement, but also arguments had was seeing huge funding shortages

Conservative Damian Collins, who is standing in Folkestone & Hythe, said the Tories' manifesto included more funding for the NHS, with more money going into primary care to support GPs.

He said: "We are seeing new investment in the health service that delivers better facilities.

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Kelly-Marie Blundell, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes, said: "Quite simply, our NHS is at breaking point."

She said the Lib Dems were proposing a penny-in-the-pound rise in income tax and said: "We need to see investment and we need to see radical overhaul to make sure we keep our NHS free at the point of access."

The Green Party's Caroline Lucas, standing in Brighton Pavilion, said UK had the world's fifth biggest economy and said: "We put less into our health system as a percentage of GDP than most other European countries."

She said more money had to go on the NHS, and called for private companies to be taken out of the public health system.

Image caption The five panellists are standing in seats across Kent and Sussex on 8 June

Peter Chowney, Labour candidate for Hastings & Rye, said everyone needed healthcare and the country had an ageing population.

He said more could be done to raise taxes and close tax loopholes and added: "There are all sorts of ways we can raise that money and the important thing is to keep the NHS free for those who use it,"

Piers Wauchope, standing for UKIP in Dover, criticised a plan put forward in the Conservative' manifesto for people to pay for their social care and called for a restructuring of the health service to include social care.

He said: "We always speak about the NHS being free from the cradle to the grave, it's not. Once you get ill and you're old and you've got one of many conditions, dementia being one of them, you end up paying for it."

BBC South East's General Election debate will be screened on BBC One in the South East at 22.45 BST on Tuesday.

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