Mr. R. C. Mitchell
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) how many doctors were on call to deal with urgent cases in the Southampton area on Christmas Day and Boxing Day 1972;
(2) whether he will hold an inquiry into the arrangements made by general practitioners in the Southampton area to ensure that adequate doctors were available to deal with urgent calls over the Christmas holiday period.
§ Mr. Alison
I assume that in both cases the hon. Member is referring to doctors in general practice.
All family doctors in the National Health Service are responsible for ensuring that there is adequate medical cover for their patients at all times. If they are not themselves available they may arrange for this cover to be provided by a deputy, including a commercial deputising service provided that the executive council has given consent to its use.
If the hon. Member has evidence that any doctor in the Southampton area failed in this respect over the Christmas period he might bring it to the attention of the Southampton Executive Council which is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the family practitioner services. In view of my right hon. Friend's appellate responsibility in the event of a formal complaint it would be inappropriate for him to initiate an enquiry.