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Health Districts (Medical Manpower)

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 30 November 1982

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6.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how the medical manpower needs of health districts are determined.

District health authorities are responsible for assessing medical manpower needs as part of their overall responsibilities for service planning.

The Minister has not referred to the decision. Does he agree that difficulties arise where the medical manpower committee agrees that there is a need for a consultant appointment—for example, in the case of the Bromsgrove and Redditch health disrict to prepare for the accident and emergency unit in the new hospital—but there is no revenue support? Is he aware that those difficulties are made much worse in a health district such as Bromsgrove and Redditch where there is underfunding on the RAWP formula?

There is obviously sometimes competition for resources to fund what every district health authority would like to do. Overall, there is enough medical manpower to go round and it is left to districts and regions to assess their own priorities and provide for particular districts. I know that Bromsgrove is behind by the RAWP formula, and so is the West Midlands region. That is why both are getting above average growth. The building of a new district general hospital has just commenced in Bromsgrove to meet its needs.

Is the Minister aware that much of the medical manpower works in the private sector as well as in the National Health Service? In determining the manpower requirements of the National Health service, does he bear in mind that many of those people are filling their pockets, as it is lucrative to be in the private sector at the expense of the National Health Service. That is why the medical manpower requirements are not met.

We undertake careful medical manpower planning for the National Health Service. I do not accept that there is a serious shortage of medical manpower. The new contracts, which have been introduced to enable consultants to work part-time in the private sector, have worked wholly to the benefit of the National Health Service and have helped to keep skilled medical manpower in this country.

Whatever the vested interest in the existing handout under the RAWP formula, will my hon. and learned Friend examine the gross iniquity whereby population statistics are out of date and expanding areas such as Northampton and Macclesfield are left behind year after year, with a cumulative deficit. It is time something was done about this.

I promised my hon. Friend when I met a deputation that included him that I would examine the population statistics. I also received representations from London districts that the population figures were unfair from their point of view. There is a certain conflict between the claims I receive. Northamptonshire, as part of the Oxford regional health authority, is underfunded in terms of RAWP, which is why it gets higher than average growth compared with other districts. We have to examine competing claims to see how far we can go in redistributing resources.