HC Deb 03 February 1944 vol 396 cc1387-8
19. Sir Douglas Hacking

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the letter about consultant and specialist services appearing in the British Medical Journal and the Lancet of 15th January, signed by the presidents of the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, of which he has received a copy and in which it is stated that these colleges are, at his request, making a survey of the present availability of consultants and specialists; and whether, in view of misunderstandings that have arisen on this matter, he will indicate the purpose and scope of the survey.

Mr. Willink

As the Answer is a long one, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir D. Hacking

I must comply with the Minister's request, but, in view of the great interest in this by the whole of the medical profession, will my right hon. and learned Friend see that the greatest possible publicity is given to the official reply and explanation, through medical and other journals throughout the country?

Mr. Willink

There is every reason to think that the right hon. Gentleman's wish will be gratified.

Following is the answer:

As is generally known, surveys of the hospital services have been in progress throughout the country for some months, the aim of which is to assist in producing plans for the co-ordination of those services after the war by ascertaining the supply of and probable demand for hospital facilities, and by making recommendations for any necessary extensions and improvements. At an early stage of these inquiries, it became clear that a very useful purpose would be served by the initiation of similar inquiries in England and Wales into the supply and distribution of consultants and specialists, and the probable demand for them in a comprehensive post-war hospital and consultant service. Arrangements were accordingly made with the presidents of the three Royal Colleges for a survey to be made of the existing consultant and specialist services, in order to ascertain whether there was a surplus or shortage in any area, and whether redistribution would be desirable in any post-war hospital service.

The Royal Colleges have, as already announced, established a Central Medical Academic Council, including representatives of the universities, to perform the necessary work at the centre, and area committees based on the universities to undertake the collection of information and preparation of lists locally. My predecessor invited the vice-chancellors of the universities to act as chairmen of these area committees. It is hoped that this survey will make available for the first time information about the numbers and types of consultants and specialists in the country. Information is already available about specialists in the services.

Misunderstandings appear to have arisen owing to the fact that, in order to arrive at the numbers and types of consultants and specialists, it is necessary to draw up lists of names. I am, therefore, glad of this opportunity of assuring the profession, and especially its members who are on war service at home or abroad, that such lists will be treated as strictly confidential and will not be used as a test of eligiblity for appointment as consultant or specialist in any comprehensive post-war hospital service. If, at a later date, it were thought desirable that consultant and specialist appointments should be restricted to persons qualified in some particular manner and enrolled on a list for the purpose, it would be necessary to provide for the establishment of a register on a statutory basis in a manner approved by Parliament.