asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many doctors and dentists undertook National Health Service work at the most recent count; and what was the comparable figure in 1979.
The most recent figures (September 1984) are of 67,300 doctors and 17,200 dentists in the National Health Service in England. Comparable figures for 1979 were 61,600 and 15,300. Growth is 9 per cent. in the number of doctors in the National Health Service, and 12 per cent. in the number of dentists, over the last five years.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that these figures provide further evidence of an improvement in the National Health Service since this Government came to office and that they make nonsense of the remarks by the Opposition about cuts in the National Health Service?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The figures established that this Government are devoting more resources to the National Health Service, that they are employing more doctors and dentists and, above all, that they are providing more services for patients.
Is the Secretary of State concerned about the fact that consultants regularly appear in court to give evidence during the time that they are employed by the National Health Service and that they pocket fees from the National Health Service and also very substantial fees for giving medical evidence? Does the Secretary of State agree that this is a potential abuse? Will he therefore look into it? Does the Secretary of State agree that if money could be saved in this way there would be less need for the Secretary of State to come to the House, as he did yesterday, and announce an increase in prescription charges?
I shall look at any evidence that the hon. Gentleman can provide, although I hope that he will not persist in making generalised accusations against the medical profession.
Will my right hon. Friend preserve the freedom of doctors and dentists to help private practice evolve with the Health Service and to stop the accusation of cheating levelled at them by the Opposition?
Yes. Action will clearly be taken on any abuses which are brought to my attention or which my statutory auditors find. That general and dental practitioners should have a right to private practice is clear and is the Government's policy.
How many people who need dental treatment are failing to turn to the NHS for that treatment because of its high cost, currently £15 for a couple of fillings, going up to £17.50? Many families must now be in need of dental care but are not receiving it from the system.
The hon. Lady should look at the figures. In 1979–80 there were 27 million courses of treatment and today there are 31 million courses of treatment. In other words, the courses of treatment are increasing, not falling.