Negotiations on a number of detailed amendments to junior hospital doctors' terms and conditions of service, consequential on the main agreement reached with the professions at the end of last year, are still continuing, and it is hoped that they will be completed very shortly.
Is it true that at a meeting last month the Department and the junior doctors' representatives came to an agreement, only to find that it was vetoed by the Department of Employment as being contrary to the pay policy? Is it not rather ridiculous that the right hon. Gentleman's own officials should not have been aware of the limitations of the Government's pay policy?
That is not so. Of course my officials are aware of pay policy and all its implications. However, the ques tion of doctors' terms and conditions of service raises a number of difficult issues. The right hon. Gentleman raised one of them on the last occasion on which I answered Questions, concerning the amount of money that is paid for work done over and above the normal hours. There are these difficulties that we are trying to sort out.
I cannot say that that will be the arrangement. I shall not change the basis on which the profession is represented and on which we have negotiations with the profession.
No spanner has been thrown into the works. The two sides have reached agreement on a large number of points. There is, in fact, only one significant issue outstanding at present. There has been a great deal of progress. The hon. Gentleman ought not to think that things are going backwards.
In this contract has full account been taken of the fact that of their 43½ hours on call in hospitals it is quite possible for junior hospital doctors to be working an emergency call service for general medical service for general practitioners? Has any assessment of the numbers doing this been made? What action has the negotiating committee taken on this matter?
We are making an assessment of the explanation of the reasons why there has been a heavier expenditure in fulfilling the contract with junior hospital doctors. It applies for a number of reasons. Some have contracted for rather longer working hours than the average time worked out under the former system. Certainly more A units have been contracted for than was originally assumed. But these problems are not surprising, as one part of a major negotiation carried out with the junior hospital doctors.
Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on Oxfam's report about the employment of doctors from overseas, which Oxfam said was not a very good thing for overseas countries? What is he doing to extend medical recruitment here to see that we take in fewer doctors from overseas and more from this country?
I have commented directly to Oxfam on its most interesting report. It is true that we are excessively dependent upon the services of doctors from overseas. That is why we are increasing and will continue to increase the intake of student doctors from this country, in order that we can be more dependent upon our own doctors. In the meantime, there are standards that have to be maintained. However, it is our hope that many of the doctors from overseas who have sought training in this country will eventually return to the countries from which they came, to use the experience that they have gained here.