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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK


Health

Former GP becomes shadow health secretary

Dr Liam Fox has first hand experience of the health service

Former family doctor Liam Fox is the new shadow health secretary.

As one of the few MPs with first hand experience of working in the NHS, William Hague will be hoping that Dr Fox can continue the work of his predecessor Ann Widdecombe, widely acknowledged to have made a success of the complex health brief.

Miss Widdecombe has repeatedly called on the government to admit that rationing of care is a fact of life in the NHS, and to accept the need to use private finance to meet the ever increasing demands of the public for top quality healthcare.

She also accused the government of distorting clinical priorities in the NHS, by forcing trust managers to focus resources on cutting the number of people on waiting lists.

Dr Fox, MP for Woodspring, takes over at time when the government is facing a potential rebellion from junior doctors, angry that ministers have failed to make a significant cut in their working hours.

Senior hospital doctors, too, are unhappy that they have not received financial reward for their increasing workload.

High flier

At 37, Dr Fox is six months younger than Mr Hague.

Formerly the Tory spokesman on constitutional affairs, he is already being tipped as a potential future leader. It was thought he would be a strong candidate for chairmanship of the party.

Without any MPs in Scotland and Wales, Dr Fox took provided a young, media-friendly face as the Conservative's spokesman on constitutional issues during devolution.

As well as working in general practice, Dr Fox is a former Civilian Army Medical Officer and Divisional Surgeon with St John Ambulance. He is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Dr Fox was appointed to Shadow Cabinet in June 1998 as chief Spokesman for Constitutional Affairs having previously served in the Whips' Office.

One of Mr Hague's first appointments when he took over as leader, Dr Fox is ideologically close to the Tory leader.

He was a Thatcherite disciple, convinced unionist (he opposed devolution) and Euro-sceptic, who was once spotted with a "Stuff the EU" sticker on his car.

Dr Fox is also noted as something of a socialite, who goes clubbing and has been linked with attractive women, including a former Neighbours actress.



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