HC Deb 25 July 1938 vol 338 cc2735-6W
Sir E. Graham-Little

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether he is aware that, whereas the number of persons per qualified doctor in Great Britain is approximately 1,000, in some parts of the British Colonies the proportion is as high as 100,000 to one; and whether, in these circumstances, he has under consideration any plans for increasing the personnel of the Colonial medical service;

(2) what is the present position with regard to obtaining recruits for the Colonial medical service; and whether the supply substantially exceeds the demand or vice versa;

(3) whether he can state the present approximate number of persons per qualified doctor in each of the principal British Colonies?

Mr. M. MacDonald

The ultimate objective at which the Colonial Office is aiming, in developing the medical services of the Colonial Dependencies, is to bring the best modern medical resources within the reach of the whole of the peoples of the Dependencies. It would be impossible in most cases to give accurate figures regarding the proportion of qualified medical practitioners to the population in each Dependency without reference to the Colonial Governments. Nor indeed would such figures give a reliable picture of the position, since a single Dependency may contain areas at very different stages of development. There is no doubt that, in some areas, we are very far from having attained the objective which I have defined. On the other hand, there are many places where ample medical facilities, both public and private, are available.

The public health services of the Dependencies are being continually developed, as funds and circumstances permit, but, having regard to the large areas and populations to be covered, it is clear that the eventual attainment of the objective must depend, not on an indefinite increase in the number of imported medical officers, but on the progressive training of medical staffs drawn from the local inhabitants. The policy of training such staffs is being actively pursued wherever possible.

In the meantime, the responsibility for the education of the local populations in the many aspects of preventive medicine, for the organisation of the public health services, and for the treatment of disease, rests principally upon the members of the Colonial medical service, and there can be no doubt that for many years to come that service will continue to call for a steady flow of recruits of the best personal and professional type from this country. The present state of recruitment for the service is satisfactory, and it cannot be said that the demand substantially exceeds the supply of fully suitable candidates. There has been some recent difficulty in recruiting for service in the West African Dependencies, but I have no reason to suppose that this difficulty is other than temporary.