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National Health Insurance

Volume 395: debated on Thursday 2 December 1943

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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.