§ Mr. McCrindle
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the doctor/patient ratio in Basildon New Town; and if he is satisfied that the emergency doctor service in that area is working satisfactorily.
§ Mr. Alison
The average list on 1st January, 1972, was 2,848 for 30 general practitioners; the national average on 1st October, 1971, was 2,460. Two additional doctors will shortly start to practise in the area and the average list will then be 2,687. Two practices intend to take an additional partner this year, as will a third practice when difficulties over accommodation have been resolved.
General practitioners are required under their terms of service to make arrangements for securing the treatment 237W of their patients. I understand from the Essex Executive Council that the Basildon doctors in general operate off-duty rot as among themselves. The Council has not so far been asked to investigate any formal complaints about these arrangements. I have written to my hon. Friend about the arrangements for making and investigating complaints in response to a letter from him about a particular case I was unable to identify.
§ Mr. Alison
The average list size is about 2,750 for 99 general practitioners; the national average at 1st October, 1971, was 2,460. There are in addition three doctors practising as assistants. Special allowances are payable to encourage doctors to practise in areas with high average lists; the rate was substantially increased in April, 1970, for those areas with the highest average lists. Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard qualify for these allowances, the latter at the higher rate.
I understand that doctors in South Bedfordshire operate off-duty rot as among themselves and that the Executive Council is not aware of any dissatisfaction with these arrangements.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The ratio of dentists to population in South Bedfordshire is about 1 to 5,700, compared with 1 to 4,356 for England as a whole. I am much concerned at the uneven geographical distribution of dentists, and am therefore glad that it has been agreed that possible ways of overcoming this problem should be amongst the main topics to be considered by the Working Party recently set up by my Department and the British Dental Association to consider the future of the dental services.238W
I have no power to compel dentists to provide an emergency service out of normal hours. A rot a service, started in Luton on a voluntary basis seven years ago, had to be wound up after three years through lack of demand. I have, however, asked the Working Party to consider the need for emergency services outside normal surgery hours.