asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that doctors or other persons employed by the Ministry to revise the findings of medical boards in regard to pensions, though they are not allowed themselves to alter the findings of medical boards, do, in a large number of cases, send the documents back to the chairmen of medical boards suggesting that assessments should be changed and almost invariably recommending a reduction of the assessment, and bringing pressure to bear to effect such reduction; and whether, to ensure justice being done to the pensioners, he will issue instructions that no assessment of a medical board shall be interfered with or altered in any way except by an appeals medical board or some other tribunal where the pensioner can be present or be represented?
I am glad to be able to assure my hon. Friend that he is misinformed as to the procedure which obtains. My Department has continually in operation some 200 medical boards throughout the kingdom, and it does happen on occasions that the medical staff of the Ministry refer back to a Board for explanation a case in which the assessment appears to be either markedly too high or too low, in the light of the clinical finding of the Board. No pressure is, however, brought to bear on the Boards, the procedure being based on the free exchange of medical opinion upon questions of doubt or difficulty. The whole procedure of assessment was very carefully examined last year by the Departmental Committee of Inquiry, who concluded their report on the subject with the statement that the last word as to degree of disablement was always with a Medical Board.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many members of medical boards are making complaints—confidential though they may be—to Members of Parliament, of interference with awards that have been given, which are invariably given against the pensioner?
The statement that my hon. Friend makes is quite inaccurate. I have had case after case where the assessment was increased. If the hon. Member or any other hon. Member has a case to bring to my notice, I shall be glad to inquire into it.
I will produce evidence for you.
If a man has certificates from three medical men saying he is totally disabled by the War, and doctors say he was healthy before he went to the War, and his employer says that he never missed a day, how is it that that man cannot get a pension?
He has the right to appeal to an independent tribunal.
He has appealed twice.
Royal Fusiliers (W Tedder)
asked the Minister of Pensions why the wife of pensioner W. Tedder, of the Royal Fusiliers, at present in Ewell Ministry of Pensions Hospital, has been ordered to remove her husband at once from the hospital and threatened with the deduction of half her husband's pension if he is removed to her own care and not sent to a. lunatic asylum in accordance with the wish of the Pensions Ministry?
This man's disability has unhappily developed for the worse in such a way that he can no longer be suitably treated at Ewell Hospital. His wife has been informed that if she is unwilling to consent to his removal to an asylum (which, I am advised, is now the best course in the man's own interests), he can be discharged to her care. There is no question of reduction of pension because of refusal of treatment, and I am informed that no suggestion of that nature has been made.
Has not this woman been informed by the Ministry representatives that, if she has him in her own home the pension will be halved?
I inquired this morning, and can get no information to verify that statement. The case is one of great difficulty. If my hon. Friend will come and see me later, I shall be glad to discuss the matter with him.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether the neurological hospitals at Ashurst, Oxford, and others in London, are being permanently closed down; whether the patients in these hospitals are being sent to Army hospitals at Netley, and other places, where the treatment is quite unsuitable for such cases; and whether, if this be the case, he will reconsider his decision with a view to these patients being sent to institutions or hospitals where fitting treatment will be given?
The demand for treatment facilities for neurasthenia is, I am glad to say, decreasing, and hospital accommodation is being correspondingly reduced. In-patient treatment for neurasthenia is still being provided by my Department exclusively at Ministry Institutions, of which the Welsh Hospital at Netley (as distinct from the military hospital there) is one; and there is no intention of making any other arrangements.
Is the Ashurst Hospital closed?
I am not quite sure, but, as I have said in my answer, cases are now decreasing, and, correspondingly, the hospital accommodation will decrease.