HC Deb 02 December 1957 vol 579 cc25-6
35. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that there is a shortage of qualified pharmacists; and if he will make regulations to admit sergeant dispensers, demobilised from the Forces as qualified pharmacists and thus reduce the shortage.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

I am aware of the position, but I have no authority to admit anyone to the Register of Pharmaceutical Chemists. This is a matter for the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, acting under statutory powers.

Mr. Johnson

Has my right hon. and learned Friend any special steps in mind to increase the supply of qualified pharmacists? Would it be possible to discuss with the Pharmaceutical Society whether these sergeant dispensers could have a short course—shorter than normal—and then be qualified?

Mr. Walker-Smith

As my hon. Friend may be aware, under the Pharmacy Act, 1954, there is statutory provision in regard to the making of byelaws which can allow for the admission of military dispensers without full examination in certain circumstances. So far as my own action is concerned, I am in consultation with the Central Health Services Council and my Standing Advisory Pharmaceutical Committee as to the best advice I can give to hospitals about the reorganisation of their pharmaceutical departments so as to make the best use of the available trained manpower.

Dr. Summerskill

Can the Minister say what is the nature of the training of these sergeant dispensers before they dispense dangerous drugs in the Army?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I think that the training they have is somewhat shorter than the corresponding civilian training which leads to admission to the Register at present. I think that that is why advantage has not been taken of the statutory power to make such byelaws as those to which I have referred.

Dr. Summerskill

I am sorry to press the Minister, but what qualifies these sergeant dispensers to dispense in the Army drugs similar to those dispensed to civilians?

Mr. Walker-Smith

If the right hon. Lady wants a specific reply in regard to the actual qualifications of military dispensers, she should put down a Question.

Sir H. Linstead

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the military training is probably about two years, compared with four or five years—in other words, there is a very substantial difference indeed?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The difference in training between the two is certainly a significant and material one.