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South-East Metropolitan Region (Locum Tenens)

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that hospital out-patient services in Deptford and neighbouring districts are having to be curtailed as a result of the reduction in locum tenens sessions imposed by the South-East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board; and what steps he will take to ensure that an adequate out-patient service is provided.


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the decision of the South-East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board to reduce the number of locum tenens available to consultants, senior hospital medical officers and registrars in the Greenwich and Deptford Hospital Group; and if he will ask the Regional Board to reverse their decision so as to avoid a consequent delay in the treatment of patients.

The Board has introduced a scheme to avoid extravagant use of locums. Difficulties have been anticipated over locums for two clinics in Deptford and Greenwich, but steps are being taken to ensure that these difficulties do not arise.

What steps are being taken? Is the hon. Lady aware that the venereal disease clinic is having its locum sessions cut from twenty-four to six, when the national incidence of venereal disease is rising? Also the tuberculosis clinic is having its number of locum sessions cut from thirty to twelve. In view of the fact that her right hon. Friend is so tough with patients, is it not about time that he got tough with the Regional Hospital Board to stop these cheeseparing tricks at a time when the out-patients departments' should be properly staffed for 12 months of the year?

The difficulties the hon. Gentleman mentioned are the anticipated difficulties of those departments because the Hospital Management Committee has not allocated its number of locums in the proportion which the Regional Hospital Board envisaged. Nevertheless, the Regional Hospital Board has increased the number of locums from its original proposal of 170 to 225—as I think the hon. Gentleman knows from his correspondence with the Board—and in turn my right hon. Friend has asked the Board to ensure that there should be no reduction in the amount of service available.

As the total reduction amounts to about 135 sessions in the Hospital Management Committee, can the hon. Lady say how it is possible to reduce medical attention by 135 locum tenen sessions and still have a Hospital Management Committee without causing intense hardship to patients in the Greenwich and Deptford area? Would not she also agree that the allocations which apparently were not to the liking of the Regional Hospital Board were made by the medical committees of this Hospital Management Committee which one would have thought were as capable as the Regional Hospital Board of getting medical staff?

As I say, the Regional Hospital Board has allocated 225 sessions this year for locum duties compared with an estimated 334 last year, but the purpose behind this proposal, which was initiated by the Regional Hospital Board, was to rationalise the provision of locums to combine at the same time as annual leave is envisaged the number of locums required for the job. Nevertheless, as I have said, my right hon. Friend has made clear to the Board that we expect service to be available. May I make one further point? Service in out-patient clinics usually tends to drop during the holiday period.

May I have an assurance that the out-patient clinics or departments for venereal disease and tuberculosis will not be cut this year? Does the hon. Lady not understand that this is most important in crowded areas such as Greenwich and Deptford, particularly when the incidence of both diseases nationally is disturbing?

I understand that, but this is a matter for the Board, working through the appropriate authority, which in this case is the Hospital Management Committee.