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National Health Insurance (Medical Referees)

Volume 244: debated on Wednesday 12 November 1930

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69.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the names of the medical referees for Glasgow under the National Health Insurance Act; when they were appointed, and the salaries paid in each case; and whether the approved societies have any right of nomination and bear any portion of the expenditure involved?

I am sending my hon. Friend a statement containing the information asked for in the first part of the question. As regards the latter part, the appointment of medical referees are made, with the approval of the Secretary of State for Scotland, by the Department of Health for Scotland who select the doctors best qualified in their opinion to act as referees. The cost of the referee service is a charge on National Health Insurance Funds.

70.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if there are regulations for the guidance of medical referees under the National Health Insurance Act; and, if so, whether the rules lay down any period of time from certification by the panel doctor before the referee may question the seriousness of the illness of the person so certified by his or her own medical adviser?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. Cases may be referred to the regional medical officer for his opinion either as to capacity for work or state of health at any stage of the illness.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say who refers them to the regional medical officer? Has not the panel doctor any authority in regard to the state of health? Is it the panel doctor who refers them?

The selection of cases for reference is made by the approved society or general practitioner concerned and can be made either on a question of capacity or incapacity for work or in order to obtain a second opinion about the patient's state of health. Insured persons in receipt of certificates of incapacity for work from their panel practitioners can be referred at any time. It should be borne in mind that the medical referees merely express an opinion on the question of incapacity. The decision as to whether benefit should be continued or stopped rests entirely with the approved society and though they may be influenced by the opinion expressed by the medical referee the matter is one for which they must accept complete responsibility?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of discontent owing to the number of references that are made, quite obviously without any real reason, to the regional medical officer, and will he look into the matter and have it stopped?

If my hon. Friend has any particular case brought to his notice, I shall be prepared to have inquiries made about it.