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Call to tackle lifestyle issues

Alcohol, smoking and poor childhood diets are among public health issues that should be targeted by the next government, doctors have said.

Measures such as imposing a minimum unit price on alcohol and a ban on selling cigarettes to anyone born after 2000 are being backed by the British Medical Association (BMA).

They were included in the union's manifesto on the areas medics believe should be made a priority after next year's general election.

The BMA, which represents more than 153,000 doctors and students from all branches of medicine, also claimed "creeping privatisation" needs to be reversed.

It said it has identified four key steps needed to "deliver high quality patient care in the face of rising demand and unprecedented funding challenges".

They are:

:: Working in partnership with doctors to ensure a sustainable NHS

:: Supporting the medical workforce

:: Improving the health of the public

:: Assuring the quality and safety of patient care

Among the measures suggested to improve public health was "decisive action to reduce the affordability and availability of alcohol".

The manifesto added: "As a first step, a minimum unit price of no less than 50p should be introduced."

It also called for moves to ensure the UK "remains a world leader on tobacco control", citing a possible ban on the sale of cigarettes to any person born after the year 2000.

In June doctors at the BMA's annual representative meeting voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of a motion calling for the union to campaign to "ban forever the sale of cigarettes to any individual born after the year 2000".

Such a measure could create the first "smoke free generation", they said.

The BMA is also urging the next government to "recognise the lifelong burden of physical inactivity and poor diets on children and young people by curbing the promotion and availability of unhealthy foods" as well as providing "sufficient opportunities for sport and exercise".

The BMA, which represents more than 153,000 doctors and students from all branches of medicine, also claimed "creeping privatisation" needs to be reversed.

Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA Council, claimed "creeping privatisation" needs to be reversed.

He said: "The quality of patient care and the enormous challenges facing the NHS will be key issues at the heart of next year's general election.

"Politicians need to work more closely with doctors and other health professionals to ensure the future of the health service.

"Doctors care for patients day in day out, we see their concerns and frustrations at first hand.

"Our manifesto outlines what doctors believe is needed to ensure the NHS continues to deliver a world-class health service both in terms of excellent care and value for money.

"Doctors want an NHS that prioritises patient care above all.

"To do this, services need to be properly funded and we need to reverse the creeping privatisation that has taken place under successive governments and compromises the quality of patient care."

The NHS is facing a "£30bn black hole in funding, while demand on services has never been greater while demand on services has never been greater", he said.

Dr Porter added: " Our GP surgeries are full, waiting lists are at a six year high, a quarter of hospital trusts are in the red - securing the future of the NHS must be at the top of the next government's agenda."

The BMA represents more than 153,000 doctors and students from all branches of medicine.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Getting the public into healthier habits for life is one of our major priorities.

"Smoking rates are the lowest on record, but we need to get them even lower.

"That is why we are promoting initiatives like Stoptober, making it illegal for adults to buy cigarettes for children and banning smoking in cars with children present.

"We are removing one billion units of alcohol from the market over a four year period, but minimum unit pricing remains a policy still under consideration."

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