§ 11. Mr. Andrew Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals he has to improve retention and recruitment of scientists and technicians in the National Health Service.
§ Mr. Mellor
I understand that the management sides of the appropriate Whitley councils are investigating the nature and scale of reported problems. It is for the management and staff sides of the Whitley councils to consider what, if any, further action should be taken.
§ Mr. Smith
Is that reply not hopelessly complacent in view of the acute shortage of scientists in Oxford and elsewhere in the National Health Service, the vital nature of the work that they do and the fact that they are paid 40 per cent. less on average than scientists outside the service' Is it not scandalous that even now the very management side to which the Minister refers is threatening to withdraw the miserable 5.5 per cent. pay offer that was made for the as yet unresolved negotiations which were supposed to be settled last April? What is the Minister doing through the management side to tackle this matter, which puts patient care at risk?
§ Mr. Mellor
It is extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman commends the Whitley council system—the opposition on the council prevents any reform of the system—but then invites Ministers to move in and push the system aside. I am bound to point out to the hon. Gentleman that, whatever he may say about this, that, or the other problem affecting scientists in the National Health Service, the number of scientists in the service has gone up by 57 per cent. since 1979.