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Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Health what is the overall shortage of hospital almoners; what is this figure expressed as a percentage of the total required; what steps are being taken to overcome the shortage; and how soon he expects the problem to be completely solved.

I understand that about 260 vacancies were recently known to the Institute of Almoners but not all these were in the hospital service. New facilities for training almoners have been provided at six universities in England and Wales in recent years and the numbers employed in the hospital service are slowly increasing.

That does not quite answer the question. I asked the hon. Lady what is that figure, expressed as a percentage of the total required? Can she say, further, whether the trend is towards an improving situation? Can she also say how many of these almoners are among the 300,000 Surtax payers relieved in the last Budget?

Figures are not available to answer the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question because neither establishment nor recruitment is controlled separately, Nevertheless, the numbers are improving as I indicated. In general, there is no shortage of applicants. One of the difficulties arises because, as part of the training is practical, qualified almoners have to make time to train others, which limits the rate of progress. But it is improving.