HC Deb 29 June 1868 vol 193 cc311-2

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it is true that upon the retirement of the late Surgeon in Chief to the Metropolitan Police Force the candidates for that office were informed that the restrictions, debarring the holder of that appointment from pursuing any private or hospital practice, would continue in force; that within a few months of the present Surgeon, Mr. Holmes, being nominated such restrictions were suddenly removed; and whether he is aware that such a rule, though afterwards relaxed, prevented many distinguished men in the medical profession from offering themselves as candidates for that appointment?


Sir, as this Question refers to an arrangement made by me three years ago, I had, perhaps, better answer it. On the resignation of Sir John Fisher, the Chief Surgeon to the Metropolitan Police, a question was raised as to the necessity or expediency of continuing the prohibition of private practice. I consulted Sir John Fisher upon it, and his opinion was that it would be advantageous to the police that the Chief Surgeon should have hospital practice; but he thought extensive private practice would interfere with the duties of the office. I acted on this opinion. The office was first offered to Mr. Pollok, an eminent surgeon, of St. George's Hospital, who had, besides, extensive private practice. He was unwilling to relinquish this, and therefore declined the appointment. It was then offered to and accepted by Mr. Holmes, an assistant-surgeon at St. George's Hospital, a gentleman also of the highest reputation in his profession, and of whose qualifications for the office no doubt could be entertained. After some months' experience he found that the duties of the office did not nearly occupy the whole of his time, and it was represented with great force that no man in the prime of life and devoted to his profession would permanently retain an office which did not fully occupy him. On a re-consideration of all the facts of the case I decided that the restriction might be relaxed by allowing the Chief Surgeon to practise, subject to the condition that there should be no such absence from London as to interfere with his primary duty in connection with the Police, and that the salary was to be reduced from £500 to £300, the amount at which it had been fixed before the restriction was originally imposed. I have no reason to suppose that any inconvenience has arisen from the relaxation of the rule; but if the experience of the last two years, with respect to which I have no information, has shown that private practice has in any degree interfered with the efficient discharge of Mr. Holmes's duties, I am sure that he would himself feel that he should either give up his practice or resign the office.