Welsh hospital authorities endeavour to fill vacancies by repeated advertisements and by offering part-time employment in hospitals to general practitioners and other doctors. An increase in the number of places in medical schools in Great Britain from 3,000 in 1971–72 to 4,100 by the late 1970s is planned, including a further expansion of the Welsh National School of Medicine.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information. Is he aware that the hospital service in Wales would break down immediately were it not for the fact that about 500 doctors—approximately one-third of the total medical staff—are from overseas, which sustains the service? Is he further aware that there are vacancies for 90 doctors in Welsh hospitals? As there were 10 times more students applying for places in the Cardiff Medical School than were placed last year, will the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State press with vigour for the implementation of the recommendation of the Royal Commission for an additional medical school in Wales to be sited at Swansea?
Having visited over 34 hospitals in Wales in the last two years, I very much agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the contribution which overseas doctors are making to the National Health Service. I know about the hon. Gentleman's particular interest in the difficult question of the suggested Swansea Medical School. As he knows, this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science—
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that as a result of an answer given a little while ago to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) there is widespread feeling in South Wales that the question of siting an additional medical school at Swansea has been further deferred? As the Minister responsible for the National Health Service in Wales, will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that there has been no slippage in the plan?
I cannot add to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) on 31st January on decisions about further medical school places. This matter must await a study of the need for more doctors in the country as a whole.
If my hon. Friend is to discuss this matter with the Secretary of State for Education and Science, will he take account of the fact that the proposition that there should be a medical school in Swansea has all-party support among Welsh Members and, I believe, support in the whole of Wales.