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Doctors And Dentists

Volume 640: debated on Monday 15 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Health whether he will publish the names of doctors and dentists who are fined by local health executive councils.

Even if this is about the only official secret which the Government are able to keep, is it not nevertheless a public scandal that doctors and dentists who are paid out of public funds and who let the public down, should be covered by this conspiracy of silence? Is he not aware that public opinion is very strongly in favour of these guilty persons being named?

Where it is held by the National Health Service tribunal that, in the public interest, a practitioner should not continue to practise under the Health Service, then the name is published. But in the cases where the name is withheld, which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, what has happened is that there has been established a breach of contract between the practitioner concerned and the executive council. In a case of that kind it is not the practice that names should be disclosed. Any remedy, either civil or criminal, against the practitioner is unaffected.

Does not the Minister appreciate that to the public at large it is rather mysterious why a doctor's moral lapses should nearly always obtain the widest publicity whereas professional shortcomings, which may well affect the life or health of a doctor's, or dentist's patients, are shrouded in anonimity? Does not he think that the situation might be looked at again?

When matters are brought to light in the course of these disciplinary cases which should be investigated by the General Medical Council or the General Dental Council, they are brought to the attention of these bodies, which are the appropriate ones for that purpose.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable concern about this matter, particularly among the public who want to have the option of going to reputable dentists? Does not he agree that the vast majority of reputable dentists, particularly in Birmingham where we have had a very bad case recently, very much resent the fact that suspicion is put on everybody? How can the public be protected? Where do they come in in the Minister's estimation?

If the professions concerned wish to represent to me that names should be published, I will take account of their point of view.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of publishing the names of people who commit a second offence and of making it clear that they are in breach of contract so that, although it is not a criminal offence, the public will be in a position to judge the worth of their work?

That is met by my earlier answers, in which I pointed out that, when it is undesirable that a person should continue to provide services in the National Health Service, the name of the practitioner concerned is published and he is taken off the list. Secondly, where it appears prima facie that there are matters which ought to be brought to the attention of the General Medical Council or the General Dental Council they are brought to their attention.

The right hon. Gentleman said that if the professions represent to him that the policy should be changed he would take account of that representation. Does not he consider that the public, the patients, have an interest in this matter? My hon. Friends are representing the public interest. Will he take that into account?

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) said that the profession in Birmingham——

I was answering that part of his question. I have been dealing with the concern of the public in all the answers which I have given. The hon. Gentleman drew attention to what he said was the point of view of the profession. I replied that if the profession believed that the names ought to be published, naturally I would pay attention to that view.

On a point of order. In view of the completely unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I hope to raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.