HC Deb 02 February 1999 vol 324 cc712-4
4. Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)

What plans he has to increase the number of medical doctors in training. [67162]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Denham)

The Government are currently implementing their recent decision to increase the number of undergraduate medical education places by about 20 per cent.—that is about 1,000 extra places—over the next few years. Numbers in postgraduate medical training are also growing to meet future requirements for general practitioners and consultants.

Mrs. Gilroy

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. In inviting bids for that work, will he welcome and encourage new and innovative practices that complement other measures for developing a national health service for the 21st century? I have in mind the bid from the Exeter, Plymouth and Open universities, which, in addition to having a strong community focus, will seek to develop training through telematics and information technologies which will be the stuff of communication for doctors in the next century.

Mr. Denham

I am aware of my hon. Friend's support for that proposal and sure that she will continue to champion it enthusiastically, but it would be wrong of me to comment on any individual proposals. Proposals for new medical schools will be considered alongside proposals from existing providers by the joint implementation group, which is now implementing the increase in medical school places in England. The group will judge those proposals against the objectives that are set, including value for money.

Mrs. Marion Roe (Broxbourne)

Will the Minister confirm that his plans for more doctors include the number of qualified medical students who were due to enter the system anyway.

Mr. Denham

The position is that there will be 1,000 medical school places in addition to the number that we inherited on entering office in 1997.

Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon)

May I take the opportunity to bring to my hon. Friend's attention the existence of Wimbledon Civic Forum's health forum, which brings together local executives from the health sector and local residents to discuss the future shape of health services in our community? Will he acknowledge that such forums and community health councils have a valuable role to play in promoting transparency and accountability in the new national health service, and will he undertake to review the future role of such forums and CHCs as important partners in the new NHS.

Mr. Denham

I am very interested in what my hon. Friend tells me: I am not familiar with that forum, but perhaps I shall have an opportunity to become acquainted with it in the not-too-distant future. One of the hallmarks of the new NHS is the way in which we are encouraging wider public involvement and consultation, for example, in the development of health improvement programmes, and co-operation between different parts of the NHS. That helps to overcome the fragmentation and competition that were so characteristic of the health service as it was left by the previous Administration.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. I remind hon. Members that the question is on the training of doctors.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon)

Yes, thank you, Madam Speaker.

In seven years' time, when the last of the new medical students enter medical school, they will be able to look forward to receiving, five or six years later, a basic salary of £16,710. Will the Minister take this opportunity to correct the information contained in the press release issued yesterday, which stated that a junior doctor or house officer would have a basic salary of £26,405? Junior doctors cannot understand why they are expected to do three years in a one-year pre-registration post, or why the Government consider 32 hours of compulsory overtime at half rate to be included in the basic salary. If that is correct, what are the Government's plans to increase the hours over that basic number?

Mr. Denham

Yesterday, we implemented in full the recommendations of the pay review body for doctors, which was the right thing for us to do. We are continuing to make progress on the matter of junior doctors' hours: we have increased the funding to the task forces that deal with that problem; and, although I accept that this is not the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question, we have made it clear that some of the conditions in which junior doctors are required to work—for example, their access to rest and canteen facilities out of hours—should be improved.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

Does my hon. Friend know how many of the new doctors will receive training in the specialised treatment of cancer? The reason I ask that question is the huge amount of unsolicited tobacco advertising that still pours through people's letterboxes. My constituents are delighted that, in the White Paper, the Government proposed to ban such advertising, but can my hon. Friend tell me when that ban will come into effect, as it may have some bearing on the number of cancer specialists who need to be trained?

Mr. Denham

My hon. Friend raises a number of important issues in his question. We set out our proposals for action to reduce smoking and dependence on tobacco in last year's White Paper, and we are moving ahead on the implementation of those measures. In addition to the need for basic undergraduate training, there is the need to continue postgraduate specialist medical training, for we have to ensure that we are able to meet the service standards and targets that we want to set in respect of the treatment of cancer.

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