Election 2010: Labour health ministers in election wipe out

All of Labour's health ministers, except the health secretary, Andy Burnham, lost their seats in the general election.

Andy Burnham was the only Labour health minister to keep his seat on a bad election night for Labour
Andy Burnham was the only Labour health minister to keep his seat on a bad election night for Labour

Health minister Mike O'Brien was beaten by just 54 votes by Tory candidate Dan Byles in the closely fought marginal of North Warwickshire.

Health ministers Ann Keen (Brentford and Isleworth) and Gillian Merron (Corby and East Northants), and minister for care services Phil Hope (Lincoln), also lost their seats.

As GP went to press, the ousted ministers were continuing in their posts while political leaders negotiated over forming a new government.

Under parliamentary rules, ministers in this position are barred from making major policy decisions, signing DoH contracts or appointing staff.

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Conservative shadow health ministers Anne Milton and Stephen O'Brien, and shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley all held their seats, as did Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb.

If the Conservatives manage to persuade the Liberal Democrats to enter a coalition, health policy appeared unlikely to influence any power-sharing negotiations.

But should such a coalition form, both parties agree that bureaucracy and administrative costs in the NHS must be cut drastically, with the Liberal Democrats backing the scrapping of SHAs. The two parties have also both called for a reduction in the number of targets in the NHS.

However, Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley recently walked out of talks with Mr Lamb and health secretary Mr Burnham when the three main parties attempted to reach an agreement on how to fund adult social care.

Mr Burnham and Mr Lamb agreed on key points during a pre-election debate earlier last month, with both men attacking the Conservative spokesman's policies.

On many policy areas, including reform of practice boundaries, all three main parties broadly agree.

One stumbling block could be plans to transfer work out of hospital, however.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour are committed to this, but the Conservatives plan to halt the shift.

Policy agreements
Liberal Democrats and Conservatives closest on:
  • Cutting NHS bureaucracy and quangos.
  • Independent health boards.
  • Reducing NHS targets.
Liberal Democrats and Labour closest on:
  • Social care funding options.
  • Care moving out of hospital.
  • No ring fencing of NHS funding.

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