HC Deb 23 November 1964 vol 702 cc905-6
25. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take to encourage the more rapid development of group practice amongst general practitioners and the greater use of ancillary help; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Robinson

I shall take every opportunity to provide such encouragement. I welcome the recent increase in the use of interest-free loans for establishing group practice premises, and I hope we shall be able to agree with the profession on better methods of reimbursing expenses on ancillary help. This will encourage more doctors to employ the help they need and should stimulate the growth of group practice.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I welcome that reply. Is my right hon. Friend prepared in suitable cases to consider some offer of grant to enable this form of practice to develop and so relieve some hard-pressed general practitioners and help to overcome the very great shortage he has been left with from previous Administrations?

Mr. Robinson

The scheme for improvement grants for practice premises has been approved in principle with the profession and the details are being worked out as quickly as possible. The initial provision of premises, especially for doctors entering practice, is becoming an increasingly difficult problem. Some of the measures already in hand will help, but I am considering what further steps can be taken in this regard.

Mr. Wood

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that four months ago he went rather further than that and said that the system of loans should be replaced by grants? Can he say when we may expect a further statement on that subject?

Mr. Robinson

I am in consultation with the profession about this subject at the moment and I would rather not make a statement until the consultations have gone a little further. However, certainly I am not satisfied that the present system of group practice loans is sufficient to stimulate the growth we want to see.

Dr. David Kerr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that as well as the financial problem, group practice development faces a land problem, particularly in cities? Will he consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see what opportunities can be made available for group practices to acquire the necessary premises?

Mr. Robinson

Yes, I shall be pleased to do that.