Before the last election Mr Cameron put out a plea for new people to join the Conseravtives as potential MP candidates. He said we need a new influx of professional talent to help us with our deliberations on future policy, and in managing the public sector. He had in mind highly trained and well educated individuals like doctors working in the NHS.
A couple of doctors stepped up to the plate, and persuaded selectors to choose them as candidates. Sarah Wollaston and Philip Lee duly were elected. They have been keen to offer their advice to the government as it embarks on its NHS reforms. Surely, they asked, this was the idea of inviting them in to the Parliamentary fold?
On Wednesday in the House it did not seem like that. Dr Philip Lee, after months of trying to persuade the government in private of ways to reform the NHS, broke cover and offered a Ten Minute Rule Bill to Parliament. These bills do not usually stand any chance of making it to the Statute book, as there is not normally any time available to take them through a committee stage. However, the slot is popular as it is in prime time just after Questions. Successful Ten Minute Rule bills attract media and lobby group attention and may come to influence the government’s own legislation.
Dr Lee feels strongly that people do not understand the costs of their healthcare. He proposed that everyone should receive an annual statement of the healthcare they have received over the past twelve months, with the costs of each service item. The healthcare would remain free, but everyone would then know what they were receiving from the system and would understand the costs involved. The NHS should already have good patient records recording all the treatments and consultations. It also has a lot of information about prices from its purchasing activites. He argues it would cost little for a computer to collate and transmit this to each patient. He also favours allowing co payments for treatments that go beyond the limited list of treatments available on the NHS, instead of forcing people who want such treatment into opting out of the NHS altogether and going private. He has a number of views on how the NHS could offer better quality at lower cost.
The government did not look keen on all of this. Labour hated it, and duly voted the proposal down.
Sarah Wollaston too has be driven to private members legislation to try to get her message across. She thinks binge drinking is one of the main causes of poor health in the UK, and is proposing legislative restrictions on alcohol advertising to try to control it. She has also been reported making criticisms of the government’s NHS reforms.
It’s not easy being a doctor in the House. It appears that Doctors have bigger followings for their medical advice than for their political advice, despite the good intentions of the new professionals scheme. I would be interested to hear what you think about the government taking some medical advice.