HL Deb 29 June 1965 vol 267 cc754-6

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I wish to repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has just made in another place. It is as follows:

"Her Majesty The Queen has been pleased to approve the recommendation that a Royal Commission on Medical Education should be appointed with the following terms of reference:— 'To review medical education, undergraduate and post-graduate, in Great Britain, and in the light of national needs and resources, including technical assistance overseas, to advise Her Majesty's Government on what principles future development (including its planning and co-ordination) should be based. In particular, in the light of those principles and having regard to the statutory functions of the General Medical Council and the current review by that Council of recent changes in the undergraduate curriculum, to consider what changes may be needed in the pattern, number, nature or location of the institutions providing medical education or in its general content; and to report.' "I am glad to be able to announce also that The Queen has approved the appointment of the Right Honourable the Lord Todd as its Chairman. The names of the other members will be announced later; there will be approximately equal numbers of medical and non-medical members.

"The appointment of this Commission, under such distinguished chairmanship, marks the importance which the Government attaches to a fundamental review of the whole structure of medical education: its organisation, content and claims on resources. Meanwhile, we are carrying out a review of the immediate measures which can be taken in the field of medical manpower, and the appointment of this Commission will not delay any action which needs to be taken as a result of this review."

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, may I very briefly turn my mind from the problems of the Highlands, and say how much my noble friends on this side of the House welcome the Statement that has just been made? It is, indeed, a very important Statement. We are all glad to hear that this Royal Commission on Medical Education is being set up, and particularly that it is to have such a distinguished Chairman as the noble Lord, Lord Todd. Any one of your Lordships who knows the noble Lord, or who has heard him speak in this House, realises, I am certain, that the Commission has already got off to a very good start.

The terms of reference of the Commission are extremely wide and comprehensive. I do not at all quarrel with that, but I trust that it will not mean that the Commission will be unduly delayed in making its Report. I have only one question which I should like to ask the noble Lord in connection with the last few sentences of the Statement, where he said that the Government are already carrying out a review of the immediate measures which can be taken in the field of medical manpower". I wondered whether this included the development or inauguration of any new medical schools.


My Lords, the first point which the noble Marquess made—and may I thank him for his welcome for the Commission?—was that the work of the Commission should not be unduly delayed. Preliminary steps are already being taken to staff and accommodate the Commission. It is hoped to be in full operation by the autumn, and, knowing the noble Lord, Lord Todd, one is quite sure that the work will not be unduly delayed, though there are many very complicated problems to be considered.

The question which the noble Marquess asked was about the establishment of further medical schools and whether this could be proceeded with, if necessary, before the Commission reports. As the noble Marquess knows, Nottingham was approved by the last Government as the site of a new medical school. An academic plan for that medical school has just been published and discussions will now proceed between the University there and the University Grants Committee. With regard to the question of whether further medical schools can immediately be created, the answer is that if necessary they can be, but it is not yet quite clear whether the best way of meeting the immediate need is by establishing more medical schools or by increasing the intake of existing ones.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord can say, in view of the very proper emphasis on overseas co-operation, whether consideration has been given to including representation from other members of the Commonwealth on this very important Commission.


My Lords, I could not say without notice, and, in any case, the further membership of the Commission is still under consideration.


My Lords, may I just briefly say how I welcome this decision? It is, I feel, long overdue, because we have arrived at the Gilbertian situation in this country of draining underdeveloped countries of their desperately needed doctors, in order to treat the men. women and children of this country, while our own able boys and girls are denied the opportunity of a medical education. For this reason, may I ask the noble Lord to expedite the business, always bearing in mind that it takes six or seven years after any recommendations are made to qualify a doctor?


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her observations, with the principles of which I entirely agree. I did emphasise that Her Majesty's Government are carrying out a review now, without waiting for the Commission to report, on the immediate measures that can be taken in this field to get things moving and to increase the supply of medical students and doctors.