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Conservative MP challenges Cameron on public health policy

GP turned MP Dr Sarah Wollaston has attacked the government for risking a GP training crisis and said the drinks and fast food industries have ‘too much influence' on public health policy.

The Conservative MP for Totnes, who sits on the House of Commons Health Committee, also told Pulse that the Health and Social Care Bill currently in the Lords should be amended to preserve GP deaneries.

Under the legislation they would be replaced by ‘employer networks' that would be responsible for training doctors.

Dr Wollaston said: ‘We know we are heading towards a more primary care, community-based NHS and what we are seeing already is that we don't have the numbers of GPs that we will be needed and that will get worse just at a time when we need more of them to fulfil these new roles.'

‘The hospital sector, which will form the employer networks, will be looking to fill their own posts and will they give us the numbers of GPs we need as a nation?

‘We could find that just as we need GPs the most we don't have the numbers we need and we will lack national standards.'

On Wednesday Dr Wollaston meets Prime Minister David Cameron to urge him to take more action on public health, including introducing a minimum price per alcohol unit as part of the Government's alcohol strategy to be published later in the autumn.

She said: ‘I am very concerned about the thrust of public health policy and there is too much influence of the drinks industry and the fast food industry.'

‘Personally I wouldn't favour a partnership approach with those groups I would prefer something much more guided by health expertise.'

In answer to the point that the Government's public health policy will push up demand for the NHS thereby undermining their argument that health service reform was necessary to cope with increased pressure created by problem drinking and obesity Dr Wollaston said: ‘Absolutely.'

‘Andrew Lansley talks a lot about outcomes in the NHS but if we were really serious about outcomes we shouldn't pretend that an issue like alcohol can be addressed by local decision makers.'

‘I have spent a lot of time talking to directors of public health and people in local authorities who have told me that what they need is more control over licensing and locally appropriate treatment provision but nothing is going to be achieved without very central control over things like alcohol pricing.'

‘That is why we need minimum alcohol pricing and that is what I shall be urging the Prime Minister to adopt on Wednesday as part of our alcohol strategy coming out in the autumn.'