Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Disappointment at omissions of public health legislation in Queen’s Speech

The government U-turn on their pledge to deal with tobacco and alcohol harm and the absence of any health agenda in the Queen's speech received strong criticism today from leading health groups including  the British Medical Association.

BMA Chair of Council, Dr Mark Porter, said he was “bitterly disappointed” that standardised packaging for tobacco and the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol were omitted from the Queen’s Speech today (8/5/13), and he urged the government not to shy away from introducing policies that have the potential to save thousands of lives.

He added:

“If the government U-turns on its pledge to deal with alcohol and tobacco related harm, we will have to question its commitment to protecting the nation’s health.

“The evidence shows that standardised packaging helps smokers quit and prevents young people taking up the habit and facing a lifetime of addiction. I am bitterly disappointed that the government has bowed to pressure from the tobacco industry whose only objective is to increase profits by encouraging more people to take smoke and become addicted to their products.

“A minimum unit price for alcohol would result in a decrease in thousands of alcohol related deaths. It is tragic that the government is not showing the courage of politicians in Scotland where a minimum unit price is due to be introduced.

“Ultimately taxpayers pay the price as the NHS picks up the bill for the damage to health and lives lost from tobacco and alcohol related causes.”

Commenting on the Care Bill, Dr Porter said:

“Reform of social care is long overdue and there are elements of the Bill that the BMA supports, such as greater collaboration between health and social care services.

“We note that the government has included new proposals in light of the failings at Stafford Hospital and it is right that there are moves forward to implement urgent and necessary changes. However, it’s necessary to ensure that the solutions deal with the real problems proportionately. There is a need to have better information about health performance and outcomes but there has been widespread concern that the use of ratings is too simplistic to deal with a very complex issue. The BMA will be feeding through these views during the Bill’s passage through parliament.”

Dr Porter also commented on the Immigration Bill:

“We need to see the detail of the government’s proposals to regulate migrant access to the NHS in the forthcoming Bill in order to assess whether they will be fair and workable for doctors and the public.”

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