HC Deb 29 March 1945 vol 409 cc1522-4
33 and 37. Dr. Edith Summerskill

asked the Minister of Health (1) what steps he proposes to take to provide tuition for the large number of women medical students who are unable to obtain entrance to hospitals, pending a change of policy of the teaching hospitals reserved for men;

(2) if he is aware that whereas male medical students are not called upon to sit for competitive entrance examination, the competition for the small number of vacancies allotted to female students is severe; and if, in view of the large additional numbers of doctors which will be required after the war, he is taking steps to increase the facilities for female medical students, and to abolish competitive examinations in their case.

36. Mr. Messer

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that a large number of women students who have taken their first M.B. are unable to obtain places in medical schools; and if he has any proposals to make to deal with this situation in view of the shortage of doctors.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Willink)

It is necessary, in order that man-power may be allocated in the best way, to fix quotas for the numbers of men and women to be admitted as medical students. The women's quota is fixed by reference to the number of women students admitted in the three years 1937–40, and in addition a medical school which admits both men and women may make good the deficiency in male students by admitting women. Neither the teaching staff nor the accommodation is at present available for extending teaching facilities. I would, however, refer my hon. Friends to the statements of policy made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 13th February, and by myself on r8th January, in which the Government have given every encouragement to universities to formulate plans at once for development of their medical schools a soon as conditions permit, with special reference to the needs of women students.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman fully alive to the urgency of this problem? Does he realise that there are hundreds of brilliant young women who have passed their first medical who are now regarded as redundant, although there is an urgent need for doctors; and is he also aware that the quota that was fixed was determined by the fact that only four hospitals in London admit women, whereas every hospital admits men—

Mr. Speaker rose

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that I have two Questions on the Paper, may I ask a supplementary on the second Question now, instead of having to get up again? Is the Minister aware that this competition, which men do not have to take, is so severe that questions, such as, "Who is Dennie Cherrol?"; "Who painted the Folies Bergères'?"; and "Who was in possession of Memel in 1937?", were asked of these girls in February of this year?

Mr. Willink

I cannot possibly answer all these questions, but I am fully aware of the urgency of the matter, not less because I have a daughter who is a prospective medical student. The real difficulty is the shortage of teachers at the moment, and that is one of the matters to which we are paying particular attention.

Mr. Messer

May I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware of the fact that there are many students who are allowed to get up to their second M.B. but they cannot get into hospital and they thus waste all the time they have spent in study; is he aware of the fact that much of the difficulty arises from lack of accommodation; will he consider the possibility of public hospitals becoming medical schools; and is he aware that what he has just said relates to men and does not relate to women?

Mr. Willink

The possibility of the use of public hospitals for medical schools was, of course, fully considered by a very responsible Committee, the Goodenough Committee, on whose conclusions I have already made a statement.

Sir William Wayland

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that some nurses who volunteered are anxious to pursue their medical studies, and will he facilitate their release from public hospitals to which they are now attached?

Mr. Willink

That is really quite a different question.