HC Deb 07 June 1988 vol 134 c579W
Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will report on the research project funded by his Department on women doctors' careers.

Mr. Newton

The report "Doctors and their Careers", by Isobel Allen, published today, is the outcome of a research project funded by the Department. We are grateful to Ms. Allen for her work. Women already account for more than 50 per cent. of the intake at several medical schools, and are forming an increasing proportion of the medical work force. It is essential that we make full use of their talents.

We shall of course take account of Ms. Allen's findings in considering the wider report we expect later this year from the national steering group on equal opportunities for women in the National Health Service. Meanwhile, action is already under way, or is being set in hand, on a number of the issues identified by her report. In particular, the "Achieving a Balance" programme for reforming the hospital medical staffing structure addresses the problem of career blockages in the hospital service, and of ensuring better careers guidance and counselling at all stages of training.

We have already reviewed, with representatives of the medical profession and the NHS, the system for part-time training of senior registrars, and a review for the registrar grade has started. We are also examining the doctors' retainer scheme which aims to help doctors with domestic commitments keep in touch with medicine. We recognise the demand for more part-time career posts and will discuss with representatives of the NHS and the medical profession the possibility of increasing these.

I have today announced new measures to reduce the pressures on some junior hospital doctors arising from undesirably long contracted hours of duty.

We will be bringing to the attention of the royal colleges and faculties, and consulting them about how to address, the report's findings of a perception among young doctors that assumptions about appropriate career patterns are too rigid, that patronage is too important in determining advancement, and that certain specialties are seen as unsuitable for women. We shall also discuss with the royal colleges and faculties, with post-graduate deans and with health authorities, ways of eliminating questioning by appointments boards which can be seen as discriminatory.

To assist this process, we are arranging two seminars to promote consideration of Ms. Allen's report by representatives of the health authorities and the medical profession.