HC Deb 26 April 2002 vol 384 cc517-8W
Tony Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will take steps to improve retention and recruitment of doctors in hospitals in rural areas, with specific reference to the West Cumberland Hospital. [51933]

Mr. Hutton

The Recruitment and Retention strategy focuses on all staff groups within the National Health Service including doctors throughout England. In order to ensure there are sufficient doctors in place to provide the treatment and care that patients need, there are a number of initiatives in placeIncreasing the number of medical school and post graduate training plces; Improving Working Lives for doctors—which includes the Flexible Careers for Doctors Scheme, a centrally funded shceme that enables doctors to work part time and the Flexible Retirement initiative which allows doctors to consider options to retiring often with no negative effects on their pension. These include reducing workloads, reducing hours and joining winter registers to return to the NHS at times of crisis; The Changing Workforce Programme—has been set up to look at how to make the best use of the skills of the staff and improve job satisfaction. By doing so, it will help attract new staff into the NHS through new opportunities and will offer better career prospects for existing staff. National Recruitment Strategy; and International Recruitment.

In the last year the number of NHS consultants rose to 5.7 per cent—the second largest increase on record—by 1,380 to 25,690.

West Cumberland Hospital has experienced difficulties in recruiting doctors and has taken steps to alleviate the problems. These include: examining the possibilities for international recruitment; developing a recruitment website; and implementing the Improving Working Lives Standard to ensure that staff have access to flexible working patterns and childcare.