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National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th October 1975.

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Photo of Dr Gerard Vaughan Dr Gerard Vaughan , Reading South 12:00 am, 27th October 1975

The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) spoke earlier in the debate and got in a great muddle because he clearly had not read the Expenditure Committee's report.

I come back, as I must again and again, to the point that over and above the material problems there is a widespread deep lack of confidence between all the health professions and the Secretary of State. We have no doubt that if the Government would conduct genuine negotiations with the professions, if they would see them as people who know what they are talking about because they have devoted their working lives to the service, this would transform the present situation.

There has been mismanagement on a huge scale. When one goes through the various consultations which are or are not supposed to have been taking place, one sees the extraordinary handling of the nurses' agencies, the handling of the memorandum on the management of hos- pital waiting lists, the handling of the consultants' contracts, and now the handling of the junior hospital doctors. It is no wonder there is a crisis of confidence.

We hear a great deal about the Labour Party manifesto, but the people who really know the situation would not have put that in any manifesto today. The tragic consequence is that many doctors who know say that they now feel they are not dealing with rational people. They believe that one side is behaving without reason. Once that conclusion is reached, it opens the door to violent counter-measures, as we found with the junior hospital doctors. Hon. Gentlemen on the Government side may laugh and ridicule, but the National Health Service deserves something better from them. The morale of the National Health Service is at stake today.

I should like to end with these simple questions to the Government, each of which carries a simple answer. Why do not the Government admit that they have misjudged the situation and the feelings of the health professions? There is no harm in admitting that—it would cost no money—but it happens to be true.

Why not call on the good will of all doctors and nurses and take their advice—a kind of health coalition—and say that for the first time in recent months the Government will hold genuine discussions with a willingness to see and meet the profesisonal point of view? There is no harm in that. That is not what the Government say.

Why not condemn all militancy? There is no place for militancy in the care of the sick. If pursued, as it has been, it creates militancy in non-militant people. We are seeing that now among the junior hospital doctors who are not normally a militant group.

Why not admit that there is no reason why legislation on pay beds should not wait until the Royal Commission has reported?