John Pugh MP writes on the health debate ahead at Lib Dem conference

The Coalition White Paper on Health could be the top topic at the Lib Dems’ Liverpool conference. There is still time for delegates to have a genuine impact on future legislation.

Previous soundings on have produced a thoughtful and largely critical postbag with the results passed on to the party’s Health Minister, Paul Burstow.

Paul, and indeed Nick Clegg, believe there is plenty in the White Paper Liberal Democrats should warmly support — such as the increased commissioning role for GPs, and the increased role of local authorities in public health. Others point out that Coalition agreements to have directly elected health boards and no major restructuring of the NHS have been dropped.

The response to the Health Paper has been very mixed nationally with right-wing think tanks (Civitas, Reform), charities and professional groups all voicing reservations. The uncertainty over the ‘cost’ of reforms means that the stakes are high.

No-one in either coalition party wants to go through the pain of the spending round and deficit reduction, and then have to firefight problems of a less-than-successful NHS reform before the next General Election.

That’s why we must work to get it right if we can. Key issues are: (1) how can GP commissioners be properly made democratically accountable to the public, and (2) how can their role in funding produce a sensibly organised, efficient service that meets the needs of the communities they serve?

To go forward we need to hear proper, clear answers to such questions.

Can I encourage delegates to pitch into this debate? There will be a consultative session on health on Saturday morning — please make your voice heard. Next conference could be too late.

Unable to go? Send your views to [email protected]

* John Pugh is Lib Dem Parliamentary Party Co-Chair for Health, and MP for Southport.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters.


  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Sep '10 - 5:22pm

    “That’s why we must work to get it right if we can. Key issues are: (1) how can GP commissioners be properly made democratically accountable to the public …”

    There’s only one way I can think of, and electing GPs doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea…

  • what happens when my gp runs out of money or decides to spend it on something else rather than patients?

  • John Fraser 17th Sep '10 - 9:19pm

    @John Hugh,
    Lots of diplomatic language in here John. I am trying to read between the lines here .

    Are you saying that :-
    1) the vast majority of paul burstows postbag said that the health plans were totally bonkers (or something similar) ?

    2) Are you hinting that you may possibly have the same thoughts…if not could you clarify what you the parties co Chair for health actually thinks of the issue.

    Why does everyone with doubts about some of the less coherant (and in some cases downright silly) coalition policies not just come out and say it. If a freind had put his underpants on outside his trousers (the equivelent of yet another ill thought out undemocratic health service reform) .S urely now its time to come out and tell him straight.

    John if you believe that these ideas are undemocrat and a potential burocratic mess you dont have to sound apologetic about it becuase youve totally hit the nail on the head.

  • Is it true that Andrew lansleys wife is a GP
    has he not a fininancial intrest ?

    This white paper is pure madness
    and way off lib dem policy

    NHS nurses dont want to work for private companies

    Gps cannot seriously commission mental health services

    Please please plaese make a stand at lib dem conference on

  • Burstow said today that the nhs white paper included more power for local communities

    I dont see that

    can he tell us how ??? how will the community be involved ????

    no extra powers beyond present scrutiny role of local councils

    just giving power to 600 GPs groups, who are not even employed by the NHS, they are private business – on average earn £100-£150k a year and who dont want to is just mad

  • LordEmsworth 20th Sep '10 - 11:17pm

    In the Observer Nick Clegg said that Lib Dem influence can by seen in that they have ensured that the NHS is accountable to local authorities. Can someone please explain this. I have been involved in the various iterations of the policy and it says no such thing. Does he know what he is talking about?

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