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Public Health

Volume 395: debated on Thursday 2 December 1943

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National Health Insurance

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that materials used for treatment of special diseases prescribed by doctors under the National Health Insurance Act are exorbitantly priced and, in one case, rose from £1 10s. to £30 a ton; and whether he will take steps to have such materials prepared under Government control at the minimum cost?

My right hon. and learned Friend is not aware of the facts stated by my hon. Friend. He understands from him that the Question relates particularly to pancreas glands used in making insulin. I am informed that the price of these glands is now slightly less than in 1922, though considerably higher than at the outbreak of war. But the price of the raw material has only a slight effect on the price of insulin itself, which has fallen very much since insulin was introduced in 1923 and is not now much higher than just before the war. My right hon. and learned Friend does not see any necessity for instituting such control as is suggested in the last part of the Question.

If the facts are as stated and if offal was sold at 30s. per ton before insulin was discovered and at £30 a ton afterwards, somebody must be getting the profit. Is it not right that the matter should be looked into, when the life of people depends upon it, so that they should get it with the least possible cost and there should be no profiteering?

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that the case is as I have stated. This matter of the price of insulin has been looked at on several occasions, as some hon. Members know. The facts are as I have stated them.

Does the Minister deny that since the discovery of insulin the price of offal has risen from 30s. to £30 per ton? Surely that cannot be justified.

26.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will explain the purpose of the change in National Health Insurance effected by the National Health Insurance (Additional Benefits) Amendment Regulations, 1943 (S.R. & O., 1943, No. 1515)?

The purpose of the Regulation to which my hon. Friend refers is to widen the field for the supply of artificial eyes to insured persons who are in need of these appliances and are entitled to obtain them as part of ophthalmic benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts. The field of supply had previously been limited to opticians and the manufacturers of artificial eyes; by the Regulation in question it is now extended to include firms which, although not manufacturers, are customarily engaged in the supply and fitting of such eyes.

Might it not be desirable to include that explanation in an explanatory memorandum? Will the hon. Lady bear in mind the desirability of explanatory memoranda with Regulations of this nature, particularly in view of the undertaking that the Government have given in this regard?

Certainty, Sir, but it was thought that this Regulation concerning eyes was fairly clear and distinct.

Tubercular Patients

29.

asked the Minister of Health what representations he has received from the Corporation of Liverpool during the past 12 months as to the shortage of beds for tuberculosis patients in the Liverpool area; what reply he has given to the Corporation; and whether he will make a statement to the House on this matter?

Proposals for providing additional beds for tuberculosis cases in Liverpool by an extension of one of the Corporation's hospitals have recently been discussed between representatives of the Corporation and of the Ministry, and the Corporation has been informed of my right hon. Friend's approval of this project in principle. The plans for the extension are under immediate consideration.

May I ask the hon. Lady whether her Ministry is fully seized with the urgency of this problem, having in mind the large number of persons suffering from this complaint and unable to get beds?

Yes, I think we are. The difficulty of course is again materials, labour and staff.

Has the Minister considered the question of using some of the accommodation available in the emergency hospitals provided for military purposes, a large part of which accommodation at the present time is not used and is not now, I think, likely to be used to its full extent?

Yes. Some of this accommodation is being used and has been used for some time. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman that this accommodation is not likely to be used to its fullest extent.

30.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that tuberculosis patients at the Sully Hospital, who are not likely to be discharged for periods over six months, have had their allowances terminated; and whether he will take steps to have the whole position examined?

My right hon. Friend is not aware of any failure to apply the tuberculosis allowances scheme correctly to patients at the Sully Hospital, or of the application of a condition in such terms as my hon. Friend suggests, but I will look into any individual case of complaint if he will send me particulars.

Service Patients (Christmas Amenities)

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether his Circular 2884 issued to local authorities and others notifying them that 6d. per head may be granted to wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen for Christmas amenities, represents his final decision upon the amount adequate for the men's needs and generous enough at this season?

This authority to incur extra expenditure on Christmas amenities for Service patients was issued to hospitals in the emergency hospital scheme at the request of the Ministers for the Service Departments and is not a matter for my right hon. Friend's decision.

Will the hon. Lady consider withdrawing this rather paltry Order and substituting something more in accordance with her own generous instincts?

I would point out that we have been asked to do this by the Service Ministries. I do not quite see why the generous instinct of an individual should not be shown to an individual patient or patients in hospital. It is not necessary to do it out of public funds.

The hon. Lady's Ministry is adopting these proposals and surely can alter the Order under these circumstances?

No; perhaps I did not make it clear to the hon. Member that the Services Ministries asked us, as agents, to allow this grant where there are Service patients in the emergency hospitals.

Will the hon. Lady warn the hospital authorities to see that Service patients do not get intoxicated over the festive season with this 6d.?

I think hon. Members will agree when they go to hospitals at Christmas time that a great deal is done for and is appreciated by the patients?

Did the Service Departments in asking for this concession ask specifically for 6d.?

Does this mean that in this particular case, as in many others, the Ministry is prepared to depend on private charity?

My opinion is that Christmas season's gifts and giving pleasure to other people may be called by the hon. Member private charity, but I am glad that it still exists.

Can the hon. Lady give any idea of the total amount involved in this giving of 6d. a head?

No, I am afraid I cannot without notice. It is quite a considerable sum, which will be used in the hospitals for entertaining and brightening the time for the patients.

Institution Inmates (Pocket Money)

36.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will take steps to enable public assistance committees, who so desire, to grant in suitable instances pocket money to inmates of public assistance institutions who are under 65 years of age?

My right hon. Friend has noted this question for consideration at an appropriate opportunity, but he certainly could not undertake to introduce legislation in the sense suggested in the early future.

Service Men's Children (Residential Nurseries)

37.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the difficulties at present experienced by the wives of men serving in His Majesty's Forces who, having to enter hospital for illness or confinement, are unable to make arrangements for their children, other than sending them to some public institution; and whether arrangements will be considered for the provision of residential hostels to which such children could be sent?

My right hon. Friend is aware of the difficulty referred to. Some provision for such cases is already made by welfare authorities and by means of the residential nurseries established under the Government evacuation scheme. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any particular cases in mind, I shall be glad to have inquiries made.

Does the hon. Lady not realise that the present arrangements do not really meet the case, and would she consult with the Ministers of the Service Departments to see whether some special arrangements cannot be made which would deal with the cases that arise among the wives of Service men?

I may inform my hon. and gallant Friend that my right hon. Friend has discussed this matter with the Service Departments. It simply comes down to the difficulty of staff. If the Minister of Labour gives us more staff it will be possible to make further arrangements.

Is it not true that there is a great shortage of places to which to send these children, and that some of these places, under the direction of the Ministry of Health, have charged as much as 36s. 6d. a week?

In these nurseries, which are run under the Government evacuation scheme, the accommodation is exactly the same for every child. The noble Lady is referring to a particular area, where the local authority had not room in their home for a child. In such cases the local authority would have to pay, in order to send the child to another home, the amount it would cost to keep the child in their own home.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Soldiers,' Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association are maintaining residential nurseries of this kind for the special benefit of the wives of serving men?

Yes. It is through the help of the Ministry of Health that they obtained the buildings, and I have been in close touch with them. They have the same difficulty as we all have because of the shortage of staffs.

Nurses' Salaries Committee (Second Report)

38.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is in a position to make any statement about the Second Report of the Nurses' Salaries Committee and the action he proposes to take thereon?

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend has received the Committee's Second Report from my noble Friend Lord Rushcliffe. The Report deals with male nurses in hospitals, with nurses employed in the public health services, with nurses engaged in domiciliary work, and with trained nurses employed in nurseries. The Report is being presented as a Command Paper, and copies will be available to-day in the Vote Office. Hon. Members will see from the Report that, as with the Committee's First Report, the work has been detailed and complicated and that the Report covers the ground very comprehensively. My right hon. Friend is to-day communicating with local authorities, the British Hospitals Association, and the Queen's Institute of District Nursing, commending to them the recommendations as to salaries, emoluments, and conditions of service, and informing them of the grant which is payable, as in the case of the previous Report. Hon. Members will join with my right hon. Friend in thanking the Committee and their noble Chairman on the conclusion of this part of their work.

Will the House have an opportunity of discussing this Report before it is commended to the local authorities? The first Report was carried through without such an opportunity being given.

Are the recommendations of the Report more generous than those of the last Report?

Perhaps if the hon. Lady will read the Report she will form her own opinion.