The re-election of Dr Sarah Wollaston as chair of the health committee in the House of Commons this year was met with a sigh of relief fromGPs.
And not just because she prevented homeopathy supporter David Tredinnick – the MP who last year advocated GPs use astrology to treat patients – from taking over the chair of the oversight committee.
The former GP in Totnes, Devon, has proved an independent-minded Conservative MP who is not afraid to point out the holes in her own party’s NHS policies in the Government.
Risking the wrath of her party, she said the Prime Minister risked ‘over-promising and under-delivering’ with his seven-day access policies, and laid into the NHS reforms before the election.
‘Large-scale reorganisations take people’s eyes off the ball of the real challenge. My hope for after the election is that we don’t see that happen again,’ she said pithily.
Dr Wollaston was a GP for more than 20 years before entering parliament, and her non-partisan approach has meant her views are respected and listened to by both sides of the House.
Recently her calls for plain tobacco packaging were initially resisted by the Government, but later made law, and her attempts to make the health secretary take notice of the GP recruitment crisis have focussed attention on the issue.
In her first move since the election, her committee has announced an inquiry into primary care, which will include scrutiny of GP pay and workload.
Speaking to Pulse before the election, she gave a hint of what this would include: ‘It will be very interesting to look at the workforce challenge in primary care. The things that are deterring people from coming into general practice or forcing that retirement bulge. Are doctors feeling overwhelmed by workload, and indeed, what effect are bureaucracy and paperwork having?’
For many GPs, Dr Wollaston would be the ideal health secretary. However, she has no such designs, she told Pulse: ‘You come into politics and you’re considered to be a good member of a team if you simply agree with everything. But I’m pretty clear that you will be a better member of the team if you point out what the problems are going to be. I’m better suited to scrutiny and challenge.’
20 December 2021
21 September 2021