HC Deb 04 May 1993 vol 224 cc11-2
9. Mr. Wells

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the average number of patients on each family doctor's list (a) in 1979 and (b) in the latest year for which figures are available.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

At 1 October 1979, the average number of patients on family doctors' lists in England was 2,286; the provisional figure for 1 October 1992 is 1,922, representing a reduction of 16 per cent.

Mr. Wells

As a member of another family that is entirely dependent on the NHS, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that reduction? Does not it mean that every GP can spend more time with his patients and can concentrate on preventive medicine, such as the child immunisation programme?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is exactly right. The family doctor service is the basic building block of the NHS. It has a central role in educating the family over the lifetime of that family. My hon. Friend, like so many others, has great confidence in the changes that are taking place. We have almost eradicated a great number of childhood diseases as a result of the success of GP contracts. The Labour party, as ever, resists change and it resisted the GP contract. The success of GPs, health visitors and practice nurses has saved hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions and the lives of tens of thousands of children—once again, a great success.

Mr. Madden

What safeguards exist to ensure that people who are wholly unqualified are not allowed to practise as family doctors? Has the Secretary of State agreed to establish an independent inquiry into how Mohammed Saaed could practise as a general practitioner in Bradford for nearly 30 years, although he was wholly unqualified and despite an avalanche of complaints against him over that time? Will there be an independent inquiry into that disgraceful affair?

Mrs. Bottomley

I well understand the hon. Gentleman's deep concern about that particular matter. It is essential that when general practitioners are appointed, their qualifications are properly scrutinised. I am prepared to discuss the matter with the professional bodies involved to ensure that all possible steps are taken to avoid such an occurrence happening again. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the quality of general practitioners in this country is second to none and such an example is a source of great concern.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the excellent information about the improvement in health care which she has just given to the House could be the reason why, in a village appraisal given to me this morning, 88 per cent. of the villagers of Caton in my constituency described themselves as being very well satisfied with the health care that they receive?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is exactly right. It is exactly the reason why a recent survey in Newbury also showed that patients were very satisfied with their care. My hon. Friend will be interested to know that the average list size in Newbury has come down by 381 in recent years. It is a dramatic advance caused by the fact that there are 728 more medical practitioners in the area covered by Newbury.