Pay doctors extra to help the poor, say Lib Dems

Party looks to revive 'patient premium' to address inequalities in access to healthcare

The Liberal Democrats are considering offering GPs financial incentives to practise in impoverished areas that have few doctors' surgeries. The party is badly in need of populist policies to salvage its flagging general election prospects and it is felt this move could prove a vote-winner.

Health is proving to be a major battleground in the long build-up to next year's national poll. GP leaders claimed last week that 700,000 patients could lose their family doctor within months, as nearly 100 cash-starved surgeries face closure as a result of funding reforms. Millions more patients would have to wait longer for their appointments.

But Lib Dem Health minister Norman Lamb thinks that reviving and developing a party policy from the last election could be a vote-winner. The "patient premium" would make sure it pays for GPs to work in poor communities.

"My concerns are health inequalities and under-doctored areas. We need to combat ill-health and improve preventive care by concentrating on areas where there is poorer access [to doctors' surgeries]," Mr Lamb said.

"We're looking at improving these areas with the idea of creating incentives to get GPs working in areas where they can be really effective. In my view this [inequality] is something that still needs to be addressed."

The Lib Dems have scored as poorly as 9 per cent in several recent opinion polls, a huge slump from the 23 per cent share of the 2010 general election vote. The party could lose all its 12 MEPs at this month's European elections.

Senior party figures believe that the £2.5bn pupil premium, which channels extra money to schools based on the number of children from poor households they are educating, has been one of the Lib Dem's biggest but most under-appreciated successes in government. Schools are given up to £1,900 a year for each child they teach from a disadvantaged background, such as those in the care system.

Rolling out the model across other policy areas would be a way for the party belatedly to get credit for the idea. Party President Tim Farron and Local Government minister Stephen Williams want to expand the pupil premium to higher education, to help university students from poorer backgrounds.

Mr Lamb said that the patient premium proposal needs to be refined, but he has submitted the "basic principle" to a policy development committee that is considering what should go into the general election manifesto. Considered a possible future Lib Dem leader, Mr Lamb is a powerful figure in the party and a well-known coalition minister, so the policy is likely to be adopted for next year's campaign.

As Lib Dem health spokesman before the 2010 election, Mr Lamb envisaged a patient premium, that would see extra funding attached to treating people from deprived backgrounds. He claimed then that GPs received more money for practising in a wealthy area than they did in a poorer one, arguing that health inequalities "scar our society".

However, the patient premium was effectively lost as the coalition forced through a series of health reforms in the first half of the current Parliament.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album