HC Deb 24 February 1965 vol 707 cc364-5
4. Mr Manuel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received regarding the shortage of hospital pharmacists; and what steps he is taking to bring their salaries and conditions into line with their qualificatons.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Judith Hart)

Various associations and individuals have been in touch with my right hon. Friend's Department and he is aware there are shortages of pharmacists in the hospital service in certain areas. The Whitley Council is at present considering a claim for increases in salaries of hospital pharmacists and the problem of recruitment will be taken into account along with other relevant factors.

Mr. Manuel

Is my hon. Friend aware that the shortage of fully qualified pharmacists is reaching serious proportions in certain hospitals? Is she further aware that, if pay and conditions were improved, many highly qualified pharmacists presently employed in retailing toilet requisites and pills would go into the hospital service?

Mrs. Hart

I am aware that there are shortages in some hospitals, particularly in the Western Region. We are not aware of difficulties in other regions. Comparison with outside industry will be one of the criteria taken into account in the present consideration of the revaluation of salaries. There are, however, some difficulties in making this comparison because of different hours of work and different responsibilities. However, all this will be taken into account.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Would the hon. Lady use her best endeavours to persuade the Treasury to view this matter with sympathy, because there is a similar problem with regard to pharmacists in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I find it terribly difficult to fit that into this Question.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Will the hon. Lady remember that there are considerable difficulties in pharmacy generally at present due to the method of payment developed as a result of the abolition of the prescription charges? Will she take this into account when seeking to recruit the maximum number of pharmacists, whether for the hospital service or outside it?

Mrs. Hart

Our information is that there is no general shortage. The problem is essentially one of getting them into the places where they are most needed.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Is the hon. Lady aware that she under-estimates the problem of the Western Region by referring to "difficulties"? A survey carried out by the Advisory Committee of the Regional Hospital Board showed that out of 108 established positions there were 30 vacancies, while only two places were filled out of 32 established positions for postgraduate pharmacists. Is not urgent action called for?

Mrs. Hart

We are pursuing this as urgently as we can. Once the result of the consideration of salaries is known, there will be no delay on our part. I said that we were aware of shortages. Shortages do give rise to difficulties. I hope that my use of the word "difficulties" did not particularly offend the hon. Gentleman.