HC Deb 25 April 1917 vol 92 cc2373-4

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that last Saturday—the day on which Lord Derby's appeal to the medical profession appeared in the newspapers—every medical man in Norwich under forty-one years of age received a summons to present himself at the local recruiting office at 9 a.m. on Saturday, the 28th instant, under penalty of being treated as a deserter; whether this proceeding was in accordance with instructions from the War Office; whether doctors in other parts of the country were treated in the same way, and in that case whether the meaning of the proceeding is that if doctors of military age do not volunteer to serve in the R.A.M.C. they will have to serve as private soldiers?


(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether notices have been served upon all doctors of military age to report themselves for service at 9 a.m. on 26th April; whether the doctors so called up are to be required immediately to accept commissions and to be ready to join for service at forty-eight hours' notice on or after 6th May; whether in the case of doctors who refuse to apply for commissions the recruiting officer is instructed to enlist them as privates in the R.A.M.O.; whether in view of these instructions adequate steps are being taken, and, if so, what steps for securing that the essential needs of the civil community are met in order that the serious breakdown which must otherwise certainly take place in the medical service in many localities may be averted?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)

The calling up of these doctors was necessitated by the attacks on hospital ships, but the danger of the civil population in particular areas being left without doctors is fully realised, and although all the doctors of military age have been called up, they will only be taken after consultation, which is now taking place, with the Local Government Board and the National Health Commission.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that where a man is willing to accept a commission, and even when he accepts one, he will not be taken away without consulting these authorities?


That is the substance of the answer which I have given. The whole subject is being considered.


Is consideration being given to the question of replacing these doctors by others who will be liberated from employment owing to the probable closing of hospitals in this country?


The National Health Commissioners and the Local Government Board are fully alive to this, and realise that the problem can be met satisfactorily only if the men who are older will undertake portion of the duties hitherto performed by those who are being called up.

Sir J. D. REES

Will efforts be made to include among those who are left behind such doctors are are able to pursue research to the public advantage?

Commander WEDGWOOD

Will my right hon. Friend see that the Minister for Munitions is also consulted on this question of taking the doctors, seeing that the-doctors are very important in connection with the manufacture of guns and also in connection with steel works in this country?


I can assure the House that the whole subject is being thoroughly gone into from the point of view of making the best use of the material available. The view of the Government and, I am sure, the view of the House, is that the wounded must receive attention first.