Published: 15/01/2004, Volume II4, No. 5888 Page 9

More than half of a group of doctors who signed a letter urging voters to elect a Labour government to save the NHS now say the Labour party has betrayed their trust.

Of 60 doctors who campaigned for a Labour victory in the 1997 general election, 31 are opposed to significant planks of government policy. Eighty-nine per cent of the doctors contacted said they opposed both foundation trusts and independent treatment centres.

And a former BMA chair who shared a pre-election platform with prime minister Tony Blair says the party has reneged on its pledge to save the NHS and is instead using Conservative policies to introduce further privatisation.

Dr John Marks describes Labour's embrace of private sector treatment centres and proposals for foundation trusts as a 'disgusting and disgraceful' betrayal of trust.

'In 1997 we signed a letter opposing self-governing hospitals as proposed by the then Conservative government and now with foundation trusts Labour are doing it themselves - It is gross hypocrisy, ' he told HSJ.

On 2 8April 1997, a few days before the 1 May general election that swept Labour to power, Dr Marks and 59 other doctors who were either members or supporters of the Labour Party took out a full-page advertisement in the Daily Mirror advising readers to vote Labour.

Now Dr Marks' brother, chemical pathologist Professor Vincent Marks, has tracked down 52 of the 60 signatories of the 1997 letter and found that the majority feel that Labour has betrayed their trust.

He asked whether they approved of the creation of foundation trusts and privately run treatment centres. He received replies from 35, of whom 31 were opposed to Labour's proposals on both.

Professor Marks said: 'An overwhelming majority of doctors who, in 1997, were both committed to the NHS and to the Labour Party, now feel let down; some of them to the extent that they have resigned from the Labour Party.

'They believe that the government's intention to establish foundation trusts and treatment centres in England is misguided and detrimental to the NHS.'

In a statement a Labour Party spokesman said: 'We promised to reduce waiting lists at the last election and that is what the treatment centre programme and other reforms are doing. Any change is difficult, but we will not be deflected from changing the way top-quality treatments are delivered to benefit NHS patients free at the point of need.'