By Gareth Iacobucci
A GP has been elected as a Conservative MP with a large majority, but the direction of future health policy remains shrouded in uncertainty after no party was able to secure an overall majority in the general election.
The onset of a hung parliament means GPs will have to wait anxiously to hear the role they will be expected to play in key policy areas such as commissioning and out-of-hours, and means all contractual and pay issues will be on-hold until a Government can be formed.
However, there were no uncertainty over the success of GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who was elected Conservative MP for Totnes, Devon, after being the first Tory candidate chosen to stand for Parliament by the public.
Dr Wollaston won the seat with a majority of 4,927, following a successful campaign in which she focussed on community hospitals and public health issues.
She told Pulse last month that her general practice career had been a good training for ‘reasoned argument and problem-solving on the doorstep’.
‘Improving housing, investing in schools, protecting the NHS and giving every adult the opportunity of rewarding employment is worth stepping out of my comfort zone to achieve,’ she said.
Elsewhere, former Labour Health Ministers Mike O’ Brien (Warwickshire North) and Ann Keen (Brentford and Isleworth) were among the high-profile casualties on a historic election night.
Mr O’Brien lost his seat – which he held since 1992 – to the Conservatives by just 54 votes. Tory candidate Dan Byles received 18,993 votes compared to Mr O’Brien’s 18,939 votes, with the result so close that a recount was ordered.
The result marks the end of Mr O’Brien’s 13-month tenure as health minister, during which time he has attempted to consolidate the Department of Health’s policies on primary care against the backdrop of a Government facing an uphill battle to survive.
His key moments included overseeing controversial proposals to abolish practice boundaries, pledging to introduce a national model contract for out of hours, and threatening to ‘name and shame’ PCTs who made slash and burn cuts.
Health secretary Andy Burnham held onto his seat in Leigh, as did Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley in South Cambridgeshire, shadow health minister Mark Simmonds in Boston and Skegness, and Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Norman Lamb in North Norfolk.
Dr Sarah Wollaston