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Medical Manpower

Volume 990: debated on Thursday 7 August 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to make a statement on the size of the future medical school intake, following consultations on his Department's discussion paper "Medical Manpower—the next 20 years"

Following the publication in the autumn of 1978 of the discussion paper "Medical Manpower—the next 20 years", comments from more than 100 organisations have been received and analysed. In addition, an inter-departmental steering group has prepared a report, based on further work by officials, on the country's likely long-term needs for medical manpower. Copies of the group's report have today been placed in the Library and further copies will be obtainable from the Department on payment.Because of the length of time it takes to train doctors, medical school intakes have to be planned on the basis of calculations which necessarily make assumptions about long-term trends in a number of factors. These include the level of financial resources likely to be available for the health and education programmes, the contribution made by overseas doctors, the career patterns of women doctors and changing working practices in the Health Service. None of these factors can be predicted with any precision and illustrative projections of a range of options have been made for the purposes of the interdepartmental steering group's study. They do not, however, constitute a Government view of how the economy or the Health Services necessarily will or should progress, and they will need to be revised from time to time in the light of experience. Because of the unavoidable uncertainties involved in making these calculations, my right hon. Friends and I share the view expressed by the Royal Commission on the NHS, representatives of the medical profession and the steering group, that it is important for them to be regularly reviewed and the outcome made publicly known. Officials will discuss the arrangements for such reviews with the interests most closely concerned.The planned annual target intake to medical schools in Great Britain stands at 4,080. The Government have concluded that there should at present be no change in either direction in that target figure, although we recognise that expenditure constraints may delay its complete achievement. In addition to ensuring the supply of an appropriate number of new doctors, it is also important that we make the most efficient use of those already in the Health Service. The Government will therefore do what they can to encourage flexibility in postgraduate medical training and in medical career structures.