Interview: Parliament 'will lose out if GPs are forced away'

The looming ban on MPs' second jobs is 'short-sighted' and will end a valuable contribution to parliament from GPs, according to GP and MP for Dartford, Kent Dr Howard Stoate.

Dr Stoate: distinguishing between MPs' second careers is important
Dr Stoate: distinguishing between MPs' second careers is important

Dr Stoate, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care and Public Health, will continue as a part-time GP and step down as an MP at the next election after nearly 13 years in the House of Commons.

Reforms brought in after the expenses scandal have meant Dr Stoate will be unable to practise as a GP and remain an MP.

'I think it is very short-sighted,' he said. 'The last thing we need is people who have spent a few years at a think-tank after university coming and filling politics.

'We need to distinguish between different types of second careers, for example if it is valuable and relevant, or purely financial. It would be to the detriment of the House if GPs were not represented.'

Dr Stoate added that he is unsure if extended hours is appropriate nationwide. He also has concerns about competition in general practice.

'Extended hours is still patchy, but I am not sure how valuable it has been. I think if you can demonstrate there is a need it has to be a good thing, but practices should not be staying open for the sake of it.

'I am not sure (competition) is wholly necessary,' he added. 'It has been useful for people to sit up and take notice of what others are doing. But I am not sure about competition purely to drive down costs.'

Dr Stoate said general practice had become far more 'pressurised' during his time as an MP, but was also more interesting.

'There is more to do and more to fit into consultations, but it is far more interesting. We have the chance to investigate things ourselves instead of just referring people on; GPs can really develop their interests.

'Earlier I saw a patient with frozen shoulder - 10 years ago she would have been going back and forth for three months to a rheumatologist. She was amazed we could take a look at her there and then.'

Dr Stoate said much of the 'doom-mongering' about general practice's future came from a vocal minority. 'It is our job as GPs - it can be stressful.'

Dr Stoate plans to practise part-time and 'keep an eye out' for roles in healthcare and health policy.

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