Women's Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:26 pm on 10th June 1988.

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Photo of Mr John Browne Mr John Browne , Winchester 12:26 pm, 10th June 1988

My hon. Friend says that it does now, and I am very pleased to hear that. One alternative is to send them into the private sector.

The other idea I must mention to my hon. Friend is that of local pay premiums. Our problem is only the tip of the iceberg. There are people on the clerical staff in our family practitioner units, starting as VDU operators, who earn £4,200 a year; while British Telecom in the same area pay £6,000 a year; local government £5,500; and the Civil Service £6,000. Effectively, the FPC is becoming a training ground for other people. They train and then move on to higher salaries.

The Government have to look at the private sector, for examples. In the private sector, I understand that in Winchester the National Westminster bank, after someone has been on probation for four months, pay a £750 a year premium on their salary. I believe that the Government have to look at this in terms of the National Health Service and regional pay. As a result, Hampshire FPC is short of 25 people from a staff of 115. It is just under 25 per cent. understaffed. Unless this is sorted out, the system will collapse. It is an excellent system and highly efficient. The administrative charges are less than 1 per cent.

Our FPC is a very effective system and yet it is in danger of collapsing because of the low pay of certain of the staff. I think that the Government must examine it and consider stopping capital spending, maybe for a year, in order to put these wages right. They must regrade staff and pay regional cost-of-living premiums. As I have said, if it is not put right there will be a collapse of the cervical screening system let alone the breast screening system that we hope is to come. It will just not get off the ground unless collective action is taken.

To close, I believe that preventive medicine is absolutely essential. It is very cost-effective. The Government must legislate on smoking in enclosed public places. They must legislate on alcohol to get a health warning on bottles. They must legislate to curb advertising of alcoholic and tobacco products, particularly on television. I think that they also must also ensure that there is legislation to require that cholesterol and calorie values are printed on packs at point of sale.

As I have said many times, I think that the Goverment must spend much more on publicising both their own good works, such as immunisation and so on, and the whole concept of self-reliance and what people, particularly mothers, can do in this education process of preventive medicine. I know that the Minister, as I have said before, has already done a great job. I am sure that she will continue. She has shown great courage and I wish her good luck in this very challenging and exciting venture.