HC Deb 21 January 1998 vol 304 cc596-7W
Dr. Tonge

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he intends to take over the predicted shortfall of doctors in the NHS; and how this will be financed. [23467]

Mr. Milburn

The Government are advised by the Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee (MWSAC) on the future balance of medical workforce supply and demand in the United Kingdom and on the intake into UK medical schools. Their third report was published recently.

MWSAC's main recommendations are for the annual intake to UK medical schools to increase by 1,000, a 20 per cent. increase over the target of 4,970 for the year 2000, together with a range of measures to improve the recruitment and retention of doctors.

A number of MWSAC's recommendations coincide with the Government's own thinking and should be welcomed. But the recommendation on increased medical school intake has very significant implications, and will need careful examination.

The Government will announce their decision on all of MWSAC's recommendations in a few months' time in the light of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Dr. Tonge

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for the better utilisation of married women doctors in the NHS, who may be unable to work full-time. [23468]

Mr. Milburn

I announced last September a five point action plan for the National Health Service setting out our human resources strategy for the future of the NHS, based on the underlying values of fairness, efficiency and flexibility. This encompasses family friendly employment policies—flexible working arrangements which allow for greater integration of all members of the workforce both in the primary and secondary care environments. These policies are essential if the NHS is to make the best use of staff and sustain the NHS as an attractive employer to people.

We accept that the number of opportunities for flexible working needs to be maximised in order to minimise potential wastage among those doctors who find traditional working patterns too restricting.

A number of key initiatives are contributing towards the need to develop family-friendly employment policies. These are summarised in the Health Department's written evidence of September 1997 to the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration, copies of which have been placed in the Library.

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