HC Deb 30 April 1968 vol 763 cc980-1
6. Mr. Burden

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to improve medical services in the Medway Towns in view of the present acute shortage of doctors in the area and the estimate in the survey carried out by the local medical committee, a copy of which has been sent to him, that 25 per cent. of the present medical practitioners in Kent have intimated their intention of leaving the service during the next five years.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Julian Snow)

The results of the survey were not sent to my right hon. Friend. I understand, however, that of the doctors who replied, 8.3 per cent. said that they contemplated retirement within the next five years and a further 14.6 per cent. that they might possibly do so. These figures are what might reasonably be expected from the age distribution of those who replied. Initial practice allowances are available to doctors starting to practise in under-doctored areas, such as the Medway Towns, and my right hon. Friend has recently arranged for these and other allowances available in areas of greatest shortage to be publicised.

Mr. Burden

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the whole of the Medway Town have been designated and, as a result of a shortage of doctors, it is proving impossible to give them an adequate medical service? Is he further aware that many doctors are now called upon to serve 3,500 patients, which is absolutely disgraceful? What will he do about it?

Mr. Snow

May I say first that I welcome the setting up by the executive council, the local medical committee and the Medway and Gravesend division of the B.M.A. of a standing committee to consider problems of the area as they arise. We are conscious of the fact that there is difficulty in certain parts of the area to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. At the same time we think it is a little early to judge the results of the publicity of the financial aids to which I have referred.