HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc184-5
3. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when she last met the representatives of hospital consultants.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mrs. Barbara Castle)

I met representatives of all sections of the medical and dental professions on 23rd May.

Mr. Grylls

What does the Secretary of State propose to do? I understand that there are 1,100 unfilled posts in hospitals throughout the country. Does she accept that consultants generally are the pace setters of the medical world? At present, British consultants are the lowest paid in the whole of Europe. The problem has been made more difficult by more and more young doctors going into general practice rather than into consultancy work. What firm proposals has the Secretary of State to try to improve the situation before the health service breaks down?

Mrs. Castle

I am aware of discontent among consultants. Indeed, one of the first deputations that I received on taking office was from the BMA, asking me to set up a joint working party between it and the Department in order that full consideration could be given to the situation and to the consultant's contract. I readily agreed. The working party is now in operation, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health. There has already been one meeting and I understand there is to be another tomorrow. The working party is going into all the problems to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Sillars

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that a Labour Government will never do what a previous Conservative administration did—agree with the BMA to cut the numbers of people going into medical school and thereby help to create a doctor shortage at a later date?

Mrs. Castle

I certainly agree that that would not be the way to meet the shortages and problems of the National Health Service.

Mr. Raison

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the growing concern and, indeed, suspicion about the delay in publishing the report of the review body? When was that report received, and when will it be published?

Mrs. Castle

I believe that I am correct in saying that there is a Question down to the Prime Minister today on that matter.