HC Deb 27 January 1976 vol 904 cc225-7
4. Mr. Hurd

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will make a statement on the number of doctors emigrating from the United Kingdom to other EEC countries.

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

The latest information available relates to 1971–72 when 40 British doctors left for other member States of the EEC. I am, however, arranging for special monitoring of movement to and from the EEC so as to provide more up-to-date information on a regular basis and to assess the effect of the directives on free movement which come into effect on 1st January 1977.

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. Are not these figures likely to increase as qualifications inside the Community are harmonised and as uncertainty about our National Health Service increases? Will the right hon. Lady do something about that uncertainty by getting on with setting up the Royal Commission? Why is it that, three months after the original announcement, we still have no chairman, no members, no board, nothing?

Mrs. Castle

It is impossible for any of us to predict the effect of the directives. All kinds of factors are at work here. For instance, there is the language barrier. I should not like to try to prophesy what the effect of the directives will be.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that satisfactory progress is being made with the Royal Commission.

Mr. Dalyell

On the subject of the emigration of doctors, has the Secretary of State noticed the extreme concern and caution about the Government's devolution and Assembly plans shown by the Scottish BMA and other doctors' organisations in Scotland?

Mrs. Castle

I must be honest and tell my hon. Friend that I have not yet had the opportunity of studying that problem.

Dr. Vaughan

Does the Secretary of State agree that fewer doctors would be emigrating and medical morale would be higher if, for example, she could explain how she justifies bringing patients from overseas direct into NHS beds, thereby jumping queues, and supplying a different standard of service for people in this country?

Mrs. Castle

As usual, the hon. and medical Gentleman is inaccurate. I should love to be able to answer that question in detail. Unfortunately, there is a later Question on that subject and I must restrain myself.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Will my right hon. Friend not worry too much about British doctors emigrating to other parts of the EEC? Is she aware that some British doctors who emigrated to that other Shangri-La of medicine—the United States—are finding conditions very much less attractive there than here, that to insure themselves against possible litigation by patients is costing them almost as much as they are earning in fees, and that many of them would be happy to return to the relative security of the National Health Service?

Mrs. Castle

I think my hon. Friend is right. During all this discussion on emigration and intentions to emigrate—there has been a rising trend, I agree—it has been significant that our preliminary surveys have shown that in September 1975 there were more hospital doctors in post in this country than in September 1974.

Mr. Stonehouse

On a point of order. As progress is so slow that my Question No. 38 on pay beds will not be reached, may I forgo my Question so that the Secretary of State may reply to it now?

Mr. Speaker

I would much rather have points of order at the end of Question Time.

Forward to