'The only cure is a Labour government': Tory MP and doctor Dan Poulter defects over NHS 'chaos'

Conservative MP and former health minister Dan Poulter has defected to Labour in frustration at the worsening NHS crisis.

The MP for Suffolk Central and Ipswich North, with a majority of 23,391 at the last election, has indicated he is not planning to stand at the next general election.

The defection was revealed in an article on The Observer website, in which he said working as a mental health doctor in a busy hospital A&E over the past year had shown him how desperate the NHS situation had become.

"Working on the frontline of a health service under great strain left me at times, as an MP, struggling to look my NHS colleagues, my patients and my constituents in the eye," he said.

He recalled seriously ill patients suffering long waits for treatment often hundreds of miles from their homes, adding that the "chaos of today's fragmented patchwork of community addiction services" had put more pressure on already-stretched A&Es.

"The mental toll of a service stretched close to breaking point is not confined to patients and their families. It also weighs heavily on my NHS colleagues who are unable to deliver the right care in a system that simply no longer works for our patients."

He said he had resigned from the Conservative Party to focus on his work as a doctor and to support Keir Starmer.

"I can well remember when I first qualified as a doctor and began working in the NHS in 2006. At the time, patient care had been radically improved and transformed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's Labour governments, following many years of Conservative neglect and under-investment.

"...I have come to the conclusion that, once again, the only cure is a Labour government."

Dr Poulter criticised the Tories for "putting the politics of public sector pay ahead of ending strikes with healthcare workers", adding: "Political ideology has been put before pragmatism and meeting the needs of patients, who are the real losers from the strikes".

He also told The Observer the Conservatives had become "a nationalist party of the right" in the last eight years.

"It is not to say all [Tory] MPs are like that," he said.

"There are good MPs, but it feels that the party is ever moving rightwards, ever presenting a more nationalist position."

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer celebrated the defection on social media, tweeting: "It's time to end the Conservative chaos, turn the page, and get Britain's future back. I'm really pleased that Dan has decided to join us on this journey."

Sky's Jon Craig called the defection a "disastrous blow for the Conservatives and a massive propaganda coup for Labour".

However, two councillors in Dr Poulter's constituency seemed glad to see him go.

Councillor Samantha Murray said in a post on X that the local Conservative Party "have had to carry him for years".

Councillor Ian Fisher posted: "Was campaigning this morning and he didn't even have the decency to tell his hard-working activists in advance. A very self-centered man."

A Conservative Party spokesperson responded to the resignation by saying the news would be "disappointing" for Dr Poulter's constituents.

"Under the Conservatives we are raising NHS funding to a record £165bn a year, helping it recover from the effects of the pandemic and driving forward its first-ever long-term workforce plan so that we train the doctors and nurses we need for the future in our country.

"Thanks to our plan, we have already virtually eliminated the longest waits and overall waiting lists have fallen by 200,000 in the last five months - and we will go further to make sure everyone gets the world-class care they need."