Skip to main content

Casualty Departments (Staff Shortages)

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1971

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made in his review of staff shortages in casualty departments, in particular in the Home Counties; and if he will make a statement.

If my hon. Friend has in mind my Department's discussions with representatives of the medical profession, these showed that an improved career structure is necessary to attract young doctors to these departments. As I said in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford) on 29th November, boards have been asked to formulate proposals for up to 30 new consultant posts as an initial dedevelopment.—[Vol. 827, c. 40.]

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that, particularly at the onset of Christmas, with the concentration in the Press on accidents, there is concern among many over the absence of casualty facilities in certain areas, particularly, if my information is correct, in the Greater London Area and the Home Counties? May I put to him that only the development of a new career structure, making this sort of casualty department post truly attractive to young doctors, will solve the problem in the long term?

I take my hon. Friend's point about the anxiety over casualty departments. I am sure that he and the public will be reassured by the prospect of 30 new consultant posts.

As we are short of doctors throughout the country, cannot something be done to make the profession more attractive? Would the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to consult his Cabinet colleagues so that more places can be made available in medical schools for young medical students and in particular for young women medical students whose numbers are well below the number of male medical students?

That is a much wider question. Making the casualty department post attractive is a genuine and specific difficulty which we are trying to overcome.

Can my hon. Friend tell me what success he has had in restoring casualty department services to the Norfolk and Norwich areas?

On further notice I will be able to look into the question and advise my hon. Friend about that.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the position in casualty departments might be helped if the Department looked at the situation the other way round? Instead of having junior doctors in casualty departments, will he try to inculcate into hospital management boards the idea that there should be a senior hospital surgeon present to deal with casualties? Does he realise that this would do two things? First, it would decrease the serious results of accidents and, secondly, it would allow the senior hospital surgeon to play his full part in this kind of work along with the more junior doctors.

I will reflect upon what the hon. Gentleman suggested, but I am sure he appreciates that the difficulty has to do with the wide variety of special needs which arise in casualty departments having to be co-ordinated with the specialities of the consultants.