HC Deb 12 June 1961 vol 642 cc9-11
10. Sir H. Linstead

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement about the closing of the out-patient dispensary in the pharmaceutical department of St. Thomas's Hospital, London, because of the shortage of pharmacists on the staff.

Mr. Powell

I understand that difficulty arose because several of the dispensing staff left simultaneously, but I am asking the board to arrange for the dispensary to be reopened with as little delay as possible.

Sir H. Linstead

Is not this an example of a tendency in the hospital pharmaceutical service of which my right hon. Friend has had warning? Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of action being taken by his Ministry so to improve the conditions of service as to prevent this drift away from that part of the service?

Mr. Powell

During the last year or so, the number of hospital pharmacists increased very sharply, and experience elsewhere suggests that the difficulties which arose at St. Thomas's were quite exceptional.

Mr. Snow

Is the Minister aware that there is a developing problem here caused by the great demand in industry for qualified pharmacists, not only retail pharmacists but pharmacists in industry itself, and is there not a possibility that the provision being made in the pharmaceutical schools is just not adequate for the situation which is developing?

Mr. Powell

There is the call from industry, and I believe that industry itself is finding considerable difficulty in recruiting all the people it needs. However, it is encouraging that there has been such a sharp recent increase in the number of hospital pharmacists.

Mr. K. Robinson

Are there difficulties peculiar to the London area? My information is that this is by no means the only teaching hospital experiencing difficulty and, as the Minister knows, in the ordinary way teaching hospitals find it easier to recruit staff than do regional board hospitals.

Mr. Powell

Obviously, there are special factors operating in the London area which may make the matter difficult, but this is the only hospital which has found itself confronted with the acute and, I think, quite special problem which arose a month ago at St. Thomas's.