The Lib Dems have tabled a bill aimed at forcing the Government to ‘come clean about their failures’ and end the ‘crises’ facing general practice and dentistry.
The Primary Care Services Bill would require the Government to appoint an independent expert to advise on improvements needed for general practice and other primary care services.
The Lib Dems health and social care spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said the bill would require an independent reviewer to report on the ‘state and condition’ of primary care services every three months.
The expert would also suggest potential measures to improve services, which MPs could ‘pressure the Government to implement’, according to Ms Cooper.
The party has previously called for an increase of 8,000 in the number of GPs and a legal right for patients to see their GP within seven days.
In her speech in the House of Commons, Ms Cooper said: ‘Putting retention measures in place, accelerating improvements in IT infrastructure, fixing outdated treasury rules on investment in primary care infrastructure – these are just three challenges in general practice on which an independent reviewer could report progress, every three months to this House, until they are fixed.’
She later added: ‘People across the country are struggling to get a GP appointment, pharmacists are closing or struggling to simply stay open, and people are resorting to DIY dentistry because they simply can’t access an NHS dental appointment.
‘The Government is failing patients after years of running the NHS and health services into the ground.
‘This bill will force the Government to come clean about their failures and take the urgent action that we need to end the crises facing services now.’
However, today Ms Cooper said the plan is ‘only partially funded and will do nothing to increase staff levels now’.
The bill tabled today was described in full as: ‘A Bill to require the Secretary of State to appoint an independent reviewer to prepare a quarterly report containing an assessment of primary care services and to lay that report before Parliament; to require such reports to include information about any measures taken to improve general practice services, dental services, community pharmacy services, optometry services, and mental health services; and for connected purposes.’
Ms Cooper introduced the bill using a ‘ten minute rule’ motion and received no opposition, meaning it may progress through the next stages of becoming legislation, with a provisional date for a ‘second reading’ set for 24 November.
In April, the Lib Dems claimed patients in England were being ‘rushed’ through their GP appointments, highlighting NHS data showing that from March last year to February 51 million appointments lasted less than five minutes.
Last week, three think tanks wrote to the Prime Minister accusing his and previous Governments of ‘short-termism’ in NHS policy-making and calling for political parties to cooperate to save the NHS.