A SERIOUS lack of experience in top-level civil service positions in the run-up to 1997 looks set to hit the Health and Welfare Branch particularly severely. The looming experience vacuum in the upper echelons of the branch has prompted a call for experts in the two fields to be appointed alongside the next secretary as policy advisers. The call, from the convenor of the Legislative Council's health services panel, Dr Leong Che-hung, comes as present Secretary for Health and Welfare Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien prepares to retire this autumn. Dr Leong said: ''I have been pushing for a medical expert to advise Mrs Wong for some time because although she has experience in welfare, she does not have a background in medical matters. ''Although the new secretary will have the ability to deal with policy matters in general they may not have a background in health or welfare, and so they should have experts to advise them.'' Dr Leong said his call was also spurred by the imminent retirement of other top personnel in the health and welfare fields. He said: ''As we approach what could be an unstable period, I believe it is important that the new secretary has expert advisers to guide him or her in policy matters.'' Others nearing retirement include the Director of Health Dr Lee Shiu-hung, chairman of the Hospital Authority Sir S. Y. Chung and chairman of the Medical Council Professor Rosie Young Tse-tse. But Dr Leong said he hoped to continue in his role as convenor of Legco's health services panel. He added: ''At the moment, the Governor is almost totally concerned with his political reforms and the policy branches are being left to get on with the job. So it is particularly important that secretaries make informed decisions.'' But a spokesman for the Health and Welfare branch said the policy secretary had a wealth of expertise to draw on in the form of the Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee. The spokesman said: ''With this whole panel of advisory experts more advisers are not thought to be necessary.'' The 17-member committee, made up of health care professionals, academics, social workers and lay members, is the Government's premiere think-tank on the development of health and medical policy. But the committee, which now concentrates on the development of primary health care, meets only quarterly. A spokesman for Dr Leong said: ''The [committee] looks at broad issues on a long-term basis and does not offer guidance on short-term operational matters so there is a need for expert advisers to the secretary.'' There are also concerns that new and young ''blood'' in health and welfare is failing to emerge through the ranks of the Government's advisory bodies. Dr Leong said: ''Much needed new talent does not seem to be materialising and I think it is time to offer more incentives to the private sector to come and work for the community.'' But the branch spokesman said there was a wealth of talent in health and welfare waiting to take over some of the top positions. Deputy Director of Health Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun has already been mentioned as a possible replacement for Dr Lee after standing in for him on a number of occasions. The spokesman said: ''As in any organisation at any time, there is wastage and retirement almost daily but there are always talented people available to replace those who leave.''