HL Deb 01 May 1984 vol 451 c457
Lord Murton of Lindisfarne

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in the name of the Earl of Cork and Orrery on the Order Paper, and I have my noble friend's authority to do so.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many units of the Army in the United Kingdom, or of the British Army of the Rhine, are without their establishment of medical officers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, 16 out of a total of 84 regimental medical officer posts are vacant in the United Kingdom and five out of 94 in BAOR. The fact that the posts are unfilled does not mean that soldiers in those units lack medical care. Where necessary, cover is provided by area group medical practices or by civilian doctors employed by the Ministry of Defence on a full or part-time basis.

Lord Murton of Lindisfarne

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Minister two further questions. First, can I have an assurance that when any unit embarks overseas on training, an attached medical officer will be in attendance? Secondly, could my noble friend devise an arrangement whereby units in the United Kingdom which are on field firing and other exercises have adequate medical cover?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that we always make absolutely certain that the necessary medical care is available in both of the circumstances referred to by my noble friend.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, can the Minister tell us how many qualified doctors there are in the army now, and can he also say whether the army is making a bigger demand on the civilian medical services?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not have the precise figure of the total number of doctors in the army at present, but it is of the order of 500.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, may I ask the Minister to indicate to the House the reason for these vacancies?

Lord Trefgarne

Yes, my Lords. The reason is as follows: recruiting is quite good, but the difficulty is that we do not always manage to retain these doctors for as long as we would wish. We are looking at this matter very carefully.

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