§ 2. Mr. Gareth Wardell
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many patients in Wales have been removed from general practitioners' lists during 1993 and 1994.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Rod Richards)
I understand that some 277,975 patients were removed from GPs' lists during 1993, according to family health services authority data. A further 165,944 patients were removed between 1 January and 31 August 1994. The most common reasons for the removal of 99 per cent. of those patients were moving home, emigration, adoption, death and the retirement of the GP. In 1993, only 1 per cent. or 2,769 patients were deregistered at the request of the GP. The corresponding figure for 1994 is not yet available.
§ Mr. Wardell
Can the Minister assist general practitioners who are facing increasing strains, especially as the scourge of drug addiction sweeps through the Principality? Can he advise GPs who are frequently threatened and harrassed in their surgeries by drug addict patients? How can they prevent such problems in future?
§ Mr. Richards
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government are absolutely determined to wipe out drugs—unlike the Liberal party, which is not. General practitioners should not distinguish between patients, but when a patient is behaving unreasonably and the professional relationship has broken down, a GP has the right to remove that patient from his list. However, I would expect a GP dealing with a drug user to make allowances for the fact that addiction may cause unusual patterns of behaviour. No general practitioner can be compelled to continue a relationship that has irretrievably broken down. Nor would doing so be necessarily in the patient's interests.
§ Mr. John Marshall
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his promotion. Does he agree that the important facts for patients and general practitioners in Wales are that, because of the Government's health reforms, a record number of patients are being treated and waiting lists are being cut? Should not Opposition Members welcome that, which is good news for everyone in Wales?
§ Mr. Richards
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. He was absolutely right in the facts that he gave to the House. In addition, since 1979 there has been an increase of 363 in the number of general practitioners in Wales.
§ Mr. Wigley
The Minister referred to general medical practitioners. Will he confirm that dozens of general dental practitioners in Wales have removed patients from their lists during the past year? Is he aware of a case in Bangor only last week, when a dentist notified his patients that because he could not maintain standards on the national health service, he had no choice but to move 4 away from the NHS? Is not that a disgraceful reflection on the Government's failure to maintain NHS dental policy in Wales? Will the hon. Gentleman give a categorical commitment to the House that anyone needing NHS dental care anywhere in Wales will be able to get it?
§ Mr. Richards
There are more dental practitioners in Gwynedd now than there were in 1979. As the hon. Gentleman should know, the Government have allowed Gwynedd family health services authority to employ four additional dental practitioners. The hon. Gentleman should also know that my right hon. Friend has set aside £50,000 for Gwynedd FHSA to improve dental treatment.
§ Mr. Morgan
First, I shall summon up all the verbal powers at my command and congratulate the new junior Minister on his promotion to the bridge of a sinking ship.
How does the hon. Gentleman justify this year's blatant anti-Welsh discrimination against general practitioners, patients and hospitals in Wales? Unlike the position in England, the Secretary of State has decided not to fund the national pay awards to doctors and nurses in Welsh hospitals as they attempt to meet their contracts. Is that an example of the so-called English backlash against which the Secretary of State waxed so lyrical at last week's Tory party conference in Bournemouth?
§ Mr. Richards
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcoming remarks, which I know came from the very bottom of his heart.
The basis of pay awards in Wales is no different from that in England.