HC Deb 30 July 1964 vol 699 cc1765-6
8. Mr. Foley

asked the Secretary for Technical Co-operation whether he has yet received a report from the Medical Advisory Committee on recruitment of doctors for service overseas.

14. Mr. K. Lewis

asked the Secretary for Technical Co-operation what recent improvement there has been in the recruitment of doctors for overseas service; if he has yet received the report of the special panel of the Porritt Committee studying this problem; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. Carr

I have received, and am studying urgently, the valuable recommendations of my Medical Advisory Committee on this subject. A recent and continuing drive by my Department has led to some increase in the number of doctors recruited for service overseas, but the demand from the developing countries has grown even faster.

Mr. Foley

Will the Secretary for Technical Co-operation indicate how many requests are outstanding, and for how long they have been outstanding? Can he also tell us whether he has been in touch with the requesting Governments to indicate the nature of and reason for the delay? And has he been in touch with any Western European countries to see what they might do to assist in this programme?

Mr. Carr

Unfilled vacancies stood at the record figure of 233 in the middle of this year and were considerably higher than they were a year earlier. I am afraid that at the moment I do not have the exact figure for a year earlier to hand. This is a very serious matter. I think that we have made clear to the countries requesting these doctors what our difficulties are, and in regard to our remaining dependent territories we are certainly making use of recruiting facilities outside the country—in Holland, for example, and Scandinavia. Of course, once a territory becomes independent we cannot recruit foreign doctors to go to that territory; that is a matter for the independent country concerned.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, while we do not hold him personally responsible for the shortage of doctors in the United Kingdom, that we think that this is a disgraceful situation? Is he aware that very probably more help is being given by doctors from the under-developed world serving for further experience in United Kingdom hospitals than we are able to give in the medical field at the moment?

Mr. Carr

I am aware of that, and we are all grateful, as we must be, for the doctors from overseas serving here. I hope it is true that they are getting training which will be of benefit to them when they go back to their countries. I hope, too, that we do not underestimate the value of the fact that here is technical co-operation flowing in the opposite direction. But that does not alter the fact that I would like to see this country doing more.

Mr. K. Lewis

Can my right hon. Friend say how many outstanding requests for doctors there are from the under-developed countries? Are we near to meeting them?

Mr. Carr

As I said a moment ago, there are now 233 unfilled vacancies. The numbers we have been able to recruit in the first six months of this year have been 69 compared with 112 for the whole of last year. There is therefore some increase, but nothing like the number needed.