§ Mr. George
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he proposes to take to improve the number 84W of general practitioners and consultants in the Walsall Area Health Authority.
§ Mr. Moyle
The Government have given a very high priority to the expansion of our medical schools to provide a larger number of doctors overall. Various measures are also taken to improve the geographical distribution. In the case of general practitioners, the Medical Practices Committee classifies different parts of the country according to the existing number of general practitioners so that new practices may only be established where they are most needed—that is, in those areas which are classified as "designated" or "open". There are also financial inducements for doctors to set up practice in "designated" areas, and to remain in practice there. Of the three practice areas into which Walsall is divided, Walsall West is currently classified as "designated", and Walsall East and Aldridge and Brownhills as "open".
In the case of consultants, new posts are allocated by my Department on a regional basis, and it is for the regional health authority to decide what proportion will be established in a given area. In allocating posts to regions, the Department takes account of existing staffing levels so that new posts are allocated preferentially to the regions which currently have low ratios of staff to population in the various specialities.