HC Deb 22 October 1975 vol 898 cc473-5
16. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to increase the number of doctors in the Scottish Health Service.

Mr. William Ross

A planned expansion of the number of places at Scottish medical schools is taking place and by 1979 the annual intake figure of medical students should be increased by 50. This will be sufficient to offset an anticipated reduction in the number of overseas doctors and to secure a net increase overall.

Mr. Sillars

Nevertheless, will my right hon. Friend confirm that even if that position were reached we should still have a doctor shortage? Will my right hon. Friend consider seriously the position of young people who hold a non-medical first degree and who are refused grants to go to medical school? Is he aware that a number of working-class people in that position cannot go on to medical school? If we made an exception for people in that category, bearing in mind the possibility of a potential doctor shortage, we should go some way towards redressing the present balance.

Mr. Ross

I think that it is wrong to talk about a doctor shortage in Scotland. In this context Scotland is reasonably well off as compared with England and Wales. The number of general practitioners in Scotland has been increasing annually. The result is that the average number of patients on doctors' lists has dropped to below 2,000. That is not the position elsewhere. I know that the hon. Gentleman has written letters about people who want to get into medical schools and who have already taken a degree course. It is a basic principle of the student award system that a candidate is assisted for one degree only. At present there are no vacancies—in other words, all the places have been taken up. Scotland meets more than its own needs in the training of doctors. Indeed, it meets the needs of other parts of the United Kingdom and other parts of the world as well.

Mr. Rifkind

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the strong feelings of frustration and anger presently held by many Scottish junior doctors? What representations has he made to ensure that the interests of the Scottish medical profession, and all Scottish medical interests, will be fully represented on the Royal Commission that the Prime Minister has appointed?

Mr. Ross

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman knows this, but I was present at the meeting yesterday with the representatives of the profession. I can assure him that the Scottish aspects of the matter will be borne well in mind.

Mr. Thompson

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that one way to increase the number of doctors in the Scottish health services would be to encourage them not to emigrate? Does he agree that he could do that by continuing with the hospital building programme and by continuing with the preparation of further phases at certain hospitals where the work is progressing in phases? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that would be one way of increasing the number of doctors?

Mr. Ross

An awful lot is being made of emigration, but the figures for the Scottish hospitals show that emigration this year is not as high as it was two years ago, and not as high as it was in the late 1960s. We must also take into account that some of those who are leaving Scotland were not born in Britain. The British born medical people who have emigrated overseas during the year ending 30th September 1975 amount to 48. Let us not make too much of this issue.

17. Mr. Buchanan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress is being made in the planning and construction of the health centre in the Springburn constituency.

Mr. McElhone

The Greater Glasgow Health Board has now determined the site for Springburn Health Centre, and preliminary sketch plans based on a revised schedule of accommodation should soon be available.

Mr. Buchanan

I add my congratulations and best wishes to those heaped upon my hon. Friend, and deservedly so, since his appointment.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in areas of redevelopment such as Springburn, where massive redevelopment is taking place, doctors' surgeries are usually housed in tenemental property? Many tenement blocks are being acquired far in advance of the need for acquisition. They are cleared of tenants and allowed to stand derelict with the doctors' surgeries standing in splendid isolation. Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the patients attending such surgeries in the evening are afraid of the petty thief, the vandal and the mugger? Does my hon. Friend appreciate it is an urgent necessity to progress as speedily as possible towards the construction of a health centre in Springburn? I urge my hon. Friend so to do.

Mr. McElhone

I am grateful for the kind and generous remarks that my hon. Friend has made about my appointment. I am also aware that he has been taking a great deal of interest in this project in his constituency.

I must point out to my hon. Friend that part of the site is at present occupied by buildings due for demolition and that the district council has agreed to advance the date of their removal to accord with the health board regulations. The board hopes to be on the site in 1977, but the date on which construction starts will depend on progress at later planning stages as well as on economic circumstances, and, of course, whether the tenders for the work are such as can be approved.

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