Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 12:36 UK

Q&A: Coalition health plans

The government has published its plans. After a week of negotiations, it is now clear where agreement has been possible between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

There are three separate health-related sections - the NHS, social care and public health.

Hospital ward
The government has set out its plans for health and social care

What does this mean for patients?

The most obvious impact could be on GP services with the document promising choice over where patients can go.

Patients have long-complained they are stuck with their family doctor.

But if the government gets its way - and it probably still has to get agreement from the British Medical Association - this problem could be resolved.

As most people will want to register with doctors close to home, there may not actually be that wide a range of options.

And there is still a question mark over what will happen when lists get full, but nonetheless it is being welcomed by patient groups.

Elsewhere, there are a number of catchy headlines, but what they mean in reality is far from certain, according to commentators.

For example, the government has promised an end to centrally dictated A&E and maternity unit closures, but this does not mean they will not happen at all. Instead, expect a pause in the process while ministers review decisions that have been made.

What does this mean for those working in the NHS?

Administration costs are due to be cut by a third, which will inevitably mean management jobs will go.

But this on its own is not enough to save the money required. A £2bn pot has been set aside to pay for things such as redundancies and redeployments and staff are braced for a period of upheaval.

The government wants to move care away from hospitals, but for this to happen better community services - larger GP practices, improved community clinics and so on - need to be put in place.

What has the government done about social care?

It has effectively delayed a decision - or perhaps that should be a row. The two parties' policies were very far apart - and as expected agreement has not been possible.

Instead, a commission will be set up to look at the options.

The Tories firmly gave their backing to a voluntary insurance scheme, which was opposed by the other parties who preferred some form of universal system.

On the face of it, this is one of the trickiest areas of policy for consensus and campaigners are not hopeful of a quick resolution.

Wasn't public health a big priority in the election?

Apparently so, but it is one of the shortest sections in the entire document running to just four bullet points.

And even they are fairly vague aspirational promises, such as improving access to preventative health services.

There is no mention of renaming the Department of Health the Department of Public Health or protecting the public health budget - as the Tories wanted.

The Lib Dems also talked a lot about introducing a minimum price for alcohol. Again this is absent.

But this does not necessarily mean that these steps will not be taken. Indeed, the two parties are not too far apart on many of the points, but just that the details may well be hammered out later.

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