HC Deb 20 July 1965 vol 716 cc1327-9
25. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will initiate consultations to create a Commonwealth Medical Service for use in the developing countries of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Oram

The medical vacancies which I am asked to fill for Commonwealth countries are almost entirely for short-term appointments. These are best filled on contract or by secondment from permanent employment here. To create a Commonwealth Medical Service would suggest the possibility of a full and continuous career overseas, which Her Majesty's Government could not guarantee.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Will the hon. Gentleman arrange to prepare a paper on this for discussion at the Commonwealth Medical Conference to be held in Edinburgh in, I think, September of this year? Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the great attraction of this scheme, namely, that in order to supplement short-term service arrangements the richer countries of the Commonwealth should combine to create a career structure for doctors prepared to serve overseas on a long-term basis?

Mr. Oram

This question has been carefully considered, both by ourselves and the preceding Government. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the forthcoming Commonwealth Conference may well provide a suitable quorum for this exploration, but I would not like it to be thought that we have any hope or real wish to create the kind of service which the hon. Gentleman suggests in his Question.

Hon. Members

Why not?

Sir G. Nicholson

May not there be some scope for some long-term service in respect of certain diseases? I am thinking particularly of leprosy. Is not there a need to co-ordinate efforts throughout the Commonwealth for the conquest of leprosy, which is a most terrible scourge but which can be dealt with, and in most cases cured, certainly if taken early? In many Commonwealth countries the elimination of leprosy tends to be neglected.

Mr. Oram

I shall take note of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion with regard to certain specific diseases, but I think that the import of the original Question was the setting up of a general medical service.

Mr. Tilney

Will the hon. Gentleman again look into the possibility of a proleptic appointment so that registrars or consultants can be appointed a year ahead and therefore serve on, possibly overseas in the Commonwealth, while waiting for their permanent appointments?

Mr. Oram

This whole question of the recruitment of medical staff is a very difficult one indeed. We are constantly reviewing possibilities, and I shall take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.