HC Deb 16 February 1959 vol 600 cc17-8
40. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health if he will discuss with the General Medical Council the desirability of including either a compulsory paper or a compulsory question on psychiatry in the medical student's final examination.

Mr. Walker-Smith

This is not a matter on which I have any powers, but the hon. Member's suggestion will no doubt be noted by those concerned.

Mr. Robinson

Will the Minister say whether there is any other way of ensuring that adequate attention is given to psychiatry in the medical student's curriculum? Does he not feel that for general practitioners of the future to be able to treat their patients properly and also to encourage students to undertake post-graduate courses in psychiatry it is essential that more attention should be paid to mental health in the teaching hospitals?

Mr. Walker-Smith

There are certain duties and powers resting with the General Medical Council in this context, but also for the last few years its policy has been designed to avoid giving detailed advice on the scope of instruction and the context of examinations because it has preferred to encourage flexibility and experimentation by the examining and licensing authorities. However, I am sure what the hon. Member has said will be borne in mind by those concerned with these professional examinations.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the fact that 45 per cent. of hospital beds are occupied by people with mental disorders, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not think it paradoxical that the medical student is not given an adequate education in psychiatry?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not think we must accept that they are not given adequate instruction in psychiatry. We know that they are given more instruction in psychiatry than was formerly the case and the younger practitioner has a larger equipment in this field than his senior used.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is my right hon. and learned Friend perfectly certain that he is sound in being so reluctant to lay down regulations or to use his influence in regard to the instruction given to medical students in this and other fields?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, Sir. Like everyone else, I am bound by the law. My hon. Friend will see the statutory position in the Medical Act, 1956. I should be perfectly happy to draw his attention to the detailed provisions if he so desires.