§ 3. Mr. David Porter
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are the implications of the proposals in the White Paper "Working for Patients" for education and training.
§ The Minister for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)
The Government are committed to maintaining the quantity and quality of education and training by and for the National Health Service. Our proposals in respect of 820 medical and dental education were set out in "Self-Governing Hospitals: An Initial Guide" in June. Our proposals for the education and training of key non-medical staff groups are set out in working paper 10 published last month.
§ Mr. Porter
Can my hon. Friend confirm that under these proposals NHS hospital trusts will play a full and proper part in education in the Health Service and that regional health authorities which, after all, have a natural and proper role, will also play a part in continuing education in the NHS?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
I can strongly confirm the points made by my hon. Friend. The NHS trusts not only will play their full part in promoting education, but they will want to do so; they will want to be seen as centres of excellence committed to the NHS, of which they are a full part. The role of the regions has been further clarified in the recent working paper to which I referred, and not only in securing but in funding education and training, not only in assisting in medical education but in the training of the important non-medical groups which play an important part in the Health Service.
§ Mr. Kennedy
Does the Minister agree that, as well as the health professionals who are directly affected, the patients have a legitimate interest in what will happen to the education and training of those professionals if hospitals choose to opt out? That being the case, what proposals does the Minister have for the involvement, consultation and democratic rights of patients to have a say about a change in status of an NHS hospital?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
There is no question of any hospitals opting out of the NHS. The NHS trusts will be full members of the service. The whole purpose of the Government's proposals is to put patients first, and patients will benefit from having highly qualified, well-skilled staff looking after them in the NHS.
§ Mr. Paice
I welcome my hon. Friend to her first Question Time as Minister for Health. Is she aware that the proposals and new regulations for the training of hospital doctors have put in jeopardy the future of Newmarket general hospital, which services a large part of my constituency? Will she give an undertaking that if the proposals to downgrade that hospital, because of the new regulations, come to her or to her right hon. and learned Friend, they will be carefully examined bearing in mind that such downgrading would be to the serious detriment of all the patients in my constituency?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
The Government obviously take the training of doctors extremely seriously as they are fundamental to the future of our Health Service. There are now 14,000 more doctors than there were in 1979 and they are all well qualified and well skilled to meet health needs. I should be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the hospital in his constituency in more detail and to review that matter carefully.