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National Health Service (Discussions)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 26 May 1943

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asked the Minister of Health what answer he has given to a large meeting of medical practitioners held recently to discuss future arrangements for medical practice?

I am not sure to what meeting my hon. Friend is referring, but I think it may be well to make clear the situation which he obviously has in mind. After the announcement by the Government in February last that they accepted in principle Assumption B of the report of Sir William Beveridge and would proceed with the preparation of a comprehensive national health service for the whole population, I began discussions with representatives of the medical profession, voluntary hospitals and local authorities as to the best ways and means of organising such a service. These discussions were, by agreement, to be nothing more than confidential and preliminary talks without commitment on either side, and for the medical profession they were conducted by a representative committee of medical men and women brought together by the British Medical Association in collaboration with the Royal Colleges. As a basis for discussion I have from time to time put ideas of my own before this committee and have invited them similarly to let me have their ideas and their full and free criticism of mine. In this way my intention was to arrive at a stage when I could review the whole subject in the light of these discussions, and could then pass from the preliminary stage by publishing a general statement of proposals for open and public discussion in Parliament and elsewhere.Recently this committee came to me with the suggestion that the whole subject should now be referred to a Royal Commission. We considered this suggestion together, however, and it was agreed that the discussions between the committee and myself should continue on the basis— which I for my part had always tried to emphasise in the previous discussions— that the Government was in no way committed to any particular method of organising the new service, that every kind of proposal which might be put forward on the subject would be equally carefully reviewed and that as before the discussions would commit neither side. The discussions have already been resumed in a very helpful spirit, and I feel sure that before long I shall be able to look at the question as a whole, in the light of all the views expressed to me by this and the other representative groups, and then to publish a statement of the general proposals which I feel should be put before the House and the country for full dis- cussion before any legislation is embarked upon.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the resolution forwarded to the Minister of Health by the Medical Representative Committee and subsequently endorsed by a meeting on 16th May attended by about 1,000 doctors, declaring that the only effective way to deal with the problem of future medical practice was to place it before a Royal Commission, he will now take steps to appoint such a commission?

I think this Question is based on a misapprehension. A suggestion for a Royal Commission was made by the representative committee to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, at a recent meeting, but after it had been considered by the Minister and the committee together it was agreed that the discussions which had previously been taking place should be continued. I understand that my right hon. Friend is explaining the situation in answer to another Question of the hon. Member today, and I would refer the hon. Member to that reply.