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General Practitioners

Volume 721: debated on Monday 22 November 1965

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27.

asked the Minister of Health what has been the increase or decrease in the number of general practitioners on the medical lists in the years 1963, 1964 and to date in 1965.

In the year ended 1st October, 1963, the number of principals providing full general medical services in England and Wales increased by 23; in the years ended 1st October, 1964 and 1965, it decreased by 103 and 219 respectively.

Does the Minister agree that this is a very alarming trend? Does not he also agree that, quite apart from the dissatisfaction with remuneration and conditions of service in the National Health Service, one of the reasons why the number of general practitioners is falling is that their waiting rooms are being filled more and more by people who are waiting for prescriptions, and whose only complaint is that they refuse to pay for their own aspirins or cotton wool?

No, Sir. I have no evidence that this is a significant factor. We should get this matter in proportion. Expressed as a percentage of the number of principals, the decrease in the year ended 1st October this year was 1·08 per cent. In a period when the image of general practice has suffered from the publicity given to the discontent felt by doctors, it is not surprising that the numbers have fallen.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether a high proportion of those leaving general practice are the more elderly general practitioners, possibly with small lists?

No, Sir. It is a fact that a rather disturbingly high proportion has consisted of general practitioners of under 45 years of age. I hope that when the new contract goes to the review body for pricing and is accepted—as I hope it will be—by general practitioners, this trend will be reversed.

Can the Minister say what specific steps are now being taken to increase the supply of general practitioners? This was an objective which figured extremely prominently in the Labour Party manifesto.

As I have told the right hon. Gentleman before, this matter is under urgent consideration by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who will be making a statement to the House about it as soon as possible. The right hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that there has been a further increase in the intake of students into the medical schools in this academic year.

28.

asked the Minister of Health if he will give an estimate of the number of general practitioners in private practice exclusively at the latest available date and in 1955.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether in his view, as a Minister, private practice is either expanding or contracting—and say whether he would like to see an expansion in private medicine?

I should not like to make a guess at this. It could be a guess only, because information on the number of private practitioners is not required for the purposes of the National Health Service.