HC Deb 19 July 1965 vol 716 cc1101-3
33. Mr. Urwin

asked the Minister of Health what estimate he has made of the shortage of doctors in the northern region; what action he proposes to initiate in order to improve the present position; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. K. Robinson

A precise estimate is impracticable. The numbers of doctors is being increased generally by expanding the intake to medical schools. I am also seeking to facilitate better use of existing medical manpower.

Mr. Urwin

Would my right hon. Friend agree that in view of the new impetus which is being given to economic development in the northern region it is more or less essential that there should be very early establishment of a medical school based on Durham University to resolve the existing problem of the shortage of doctors in the northern region?

Mr. Robinson

I take note of what my hon. Friend says about Durham, but perhaps I should let him know that the ratio of general practitioners to population in the northern region is really not very much greater than what it is in the country as a whole. It requires only 26 additional general practitioners to bring the average list down to the national average.

Mr. Wood

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chancellor of the Duchy in November promised he was going to make a statement about this shortage and methods of relieving it. We have now waited for eight months. May we be assured that we are going to get this statement during this Parliament?

Mr. Robinson

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the number of doctors in particular, but certainly there will be a statement about this before long. I cannot say when. It will, of course, be made not by me but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mr. Braine

Is the Minister aware that the Parliamentary Secretary referred only a little earlier to one new medical school which has been established? Is he aware that the decision in regard to that was taken by the late Government? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, to address his mind to the question whether in present circumstances something in the nature of a crash programme is not required?

Mr. Robinson

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are very well aware of the need for doctors, but I would point out that the intake into all our medical schools has increased by 25 per cent. over about the last five years.