Exclusive: Health minister Norman Lamb answers questions from GP readers (part 2)

Health minister Norman Lamb answers questions from GP readers on topics including minimum unit pricing for alcohol, the Health and Social Care Act and GP time for CCGs.

Mr Lamb: 'We ensured that competition was never put ahead of patients.' Pic: Jason Lancy
Mr Lamb: 'We ensured that competition was never put ahead of patients.' Pic: Jason Lancy

On Thursday Mr Lamb answered the first of a series of questions from GP readers about a series of topics including whether a Lib Dem vote is a wasted vote, GP recruitment and GP retention. Answers to your questions six to nine below.

6. You advocate minimum unit pricing for alcohol. How do you envisage this working in practice and isn’t it just penalising the least well off?

Every day, A&Es across the country are seeing over 3,000 alcohol related admissions, and alcohol misuse costs the NHS in England an estimated £3.5bn every year. But the financial costs pale in comparison to the human costs, with deaths from liver disease having increased 400% since 1970. Lib Dems want to see this trend reverse and put in place the preventative measures that the Five Year Forward View sets out as critical to safeguarding the future of the NHS. But, in developing the policy, we are committed to making sure that measures are targeted to stem the tide of alcohol misuse, rather than penalising moderate drinkers at any income level.

7. Why do you want to repeal the parts of the Health and Social Care Act that open NHS services to forced privatisation when you were part of the coalition government which introduced the legislation?

During the passage of the Health and Social Care Act, the Lib Dems fought tooth and nail to make sure that reforms were always in the best interests of patients rather than private companies – and we won. Thanks to Nick Clegg insisting on calling a pause in the legislation, and to tireless efforts from Lib Dem Peers like Shirley Williams, we ensured that competition was never put ahead of patients or valued in its own right. The commitments in our manifesto ensure that this principle is continued in the next parliament and that, just as we fought to ensure that TTIP can never force privatisation on NHS services, we will enshrine this stance in legislation.

8. Will you abolish independent contractor status for GPs and encourage us all to become salaried?

I want GPs to have the flexibility to choose what works best for them. That means that in the next government we will maintain independent contractor status but will also support salaried GPs, so that both options are open.

9. Has the creation of CCGs with GPs at their helm meant GPs now have far less time to devote to caring for their patients?

A year on, the evidence from CCGs is very positive and shows that, across the country, GPs are getting a chance to re-design and develop the services that best meet the needs of their patients. We want to make sure that best practice in every area is shared and that the Better Care Fund works to promote and support CCGs to deliver the best possible care for their patients.

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