§ 5. Mr. Oppenheim
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received about the general practitioners' contract.
§ The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)
We have received various representations on aspects of the general practitioners' contract. We welcome the continuing and constructive discussions with the profession, and others, that have resulted.
§ Mr. Oppenheim
Will my right hon. Friend cast his mind back to what was said when the GPs' contract was being introduced? Did not both the doctors' trade union and the Opposition go around frightening the sick and the vulnerable, telling them that cytology and immunisation would decrease and doctors' lists would massively increase? Given that the result of the contract has been a significant improvement in services, how can we trust any pronouncement from the Labour party, which was prepared to use the sick and the vulnerable as pawns in its own political game?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Labour party was against the contract and against deprivation payments; through its spokesman, it said that the immunisation levels were too heroic for GPs to attain. In all respects, indeed, the Labour party has been as wrong as it was about Jennifer's ear. I extend that deprecation to all on the Opposition Benches—apart from Offa, whose last Health Question Time this is. I wish her a long, happy, peaceful and politics-free retirement.
§ Ms Lynne
Can the Minister assure the House that under the new GPs' contract that is currently being negotiated, which would allow GPs to stop night visits other than in exceptional circumstances, other services such as night surgeries will be in place before any GP night visits are curtailed? Although I understand the reason for the changes, I think that patients' needs must be protected.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
The whole House will be disappointed that the hon. Lady did not rise to apologise to the pensioners of Portsmouth, and those in need on the Isle of Wight, for her party's policies. I am happy to confirm, however, that 24-hour cover, home visits and GPs' responsibility for their patients have been retained, and that over time primary care centres will be developed, providing an additional option for patients.