HC Deb 04 December 1961 vol 650 cc923-5
41. Mr. Boyden

asked the Minister of Health whether he has now revised the estimates of the number of medical students required to be trained in the next 10 years; and if he will make a statement.

43. Mr. Grey

asked the Minister of Health if he has completed his review of the data and calculations which underlie the estimates in the Willink Committee's Report; and if he will make a statement.

58. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to meet the increasing shortage of doctors, especially in registrar grades and below and in general practice; and if he will consider the establishment of additional undergraduate teaching hospitals.

Mr. Powell

I would refer the hon. Members to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mrs. Hill), on 29th November.

Mr. Boyden

While being grateful for small mercies, did the right hon. Gentleman read the article in the Lancet of September, 1960, in which two prominent medical statisticians stated that between 1955 and 1960 we were 1,400 doctors short and that between 1960 and 1965—at the present rate—we shall be 1,500 short? Is he not aware that 10 per cent. of Willink is a very poor effort, and will he do two things; firstly, publish the evidence by which they arrived at this new figure, and, secondly, have urgent consultations with the University Grants Committee concerning the setting up of new medical schools?

Mr. Powell

That question regarding the University Grants Committee is not for me but for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The problem here was to revise the data and assumptions on which the Willink Committee Report—which the hon. Member will remember was accepted by the profession as well as the Government—was based. The result of that is what I gave in the reply to my hon. Friend last week.

Mr. Grey

Is the Minister aware of the serious miscalculation of the Willink Committee? Will he be more precise and say what led it to recommend that there should be a 10 per cent. reduction in the number of medical students? The present shortage of doctors is due to that recommendation, and I submit that, because of the seriousness of this, it is surprising that the Government could have been so easily misled. I support the claim of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) and urge the Minister to rectify the position and to have more medical schools built.

Mr. Powell

Any present shortage of doctors cannot be due to the Willink Committee's recommendations, since students who entered since those recommendations would not yet have qualified, and, in fact, nothing like the full reduction recommended by the Willink Committee has been made. The question concerning medical schools is not for me but for the University Grants Committee.

Mr. Robinson

Surely the Minister appreciates that merely to restore a cut that should never have been made in the first place is hopelessly inadequate to meet the present emergency. Will he press the medical schools to take in students up to the maximum capacity, and will he discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the problem of establishing at least two or three additional medical schools?

Mr. Powell

The question of the number of students to be taken into medical schools is not one for me, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate. The hon. Gentleman will have seen from my reply last week that my conclusions and those of the Secretary of State for Scotland have been drawn to the attention of the University Grants Committee through the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.