asked the Minister of Health if he will consider the establishment of a central bureau under the National Health Service to provide general practitioners with locum tenens.
Is the Minister aware that, owing to the shortage of doctors consequent upon the disastrous Willink Report, this problem is becoming more acute each year? Will he consider establishing a working party of the profession with the idea of having a more rational way of dealing with the problem of holidays for hard-pressed general practitioners? In that respect, would he consider the possibility of using this as a means for hospital doctors to act as locums in general practice and for G.P.s to do locum duties in hospitals and so help to amalgamate the two services?
There are existing arrangements and agencies for obtaining what, I suppose, should be called loca tenentes, and the British Medical Association itself has a bureau for the purpose. I do not think that anything would be gained by the addition of a Government bureau.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this is becoming an increasingly difficult problem for the doctor who is practising on his own in country districts? Does he not think it likely to lead to the doctor who is on his own becoming less efficient by being unable to take a holiday? Will my right hon. Friend seriously reconsider the matter?
Even in the country districts, I cannot believe that the addition of a Government bureau would be helpful, but undoubtedly this is one of the minor factors which are helping to lead to the spread of group practice, which is an entirely desirable aim.