The UKIP parliamentary candidate criticised for using a picture of a hospital chief executive in election material has attacked the “extraordinary” intervention of the “ostensibly neutral chair” of Medway Foundation Trust.
Mark Reckless, the former Conservative MP now standing for UKIP in the Rochester and Strood by-election next week, used a photo of himself and acting trust chief executive Dr Phillip Barnes in an election leaflet.
This prompted a letter of complaint from trust chair Shena Winning, who described the use of the image as misleading and out of context.
Mr Reckless countered that the leaflet in which it featured was now “fully distributed” but the image would not be used again.
The photo had been taken in September when Mr Reckless was the area’s Conservative MP, according to the trust.
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In a statement put on his website last night Mr Reckless confirms an exchange of letters with the chair of Medway hospital.
“They do not show my doing anything unusual for someone seeking re-election as an MP,” it adds. “They do, however, show extraordinary involvement by an ostensibly neutral chair of an NHS body in an election.
“MPs across the country will have used pictures of themselves with the chair or chief executive of their local hospital or similar in such content.”
“I am not aware of Medway hospital complaining of any Labour MP doing that in the past.”
“My reply should have put an end to the matter. Instead, publicly paid press officers appear to have continued briefing this matter, rather than dealing with more pressing matters for a hospital in special measures.
“I am demanding an urgent meeting with Mrs Winning to discuss her intervention.
The future of the trust’s Medway Maritime Hospital, currently in special measures and struggling with A&E waiting times, has been a key issue in the by-election.
One of Mr Reckless’s posters says he is “backing Medway’s NHS” while other candidates have pledged to prioritise improvements to the trust.