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Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 5 April 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he considers that, in addition to gas and air, the trilene apparatus for analgesia is now suitable; and if it is available for issue.

Expert medical opinion is not yet agreed on the unsupervised use by midwives of any existing trilene apparatus. The Medical Research Council have decided to set up a Committee to investigate the problem.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in the meantime, certain local authorities are not using gas and oxygen, alternatively, as they are in doubt whether they should wait for the arrival of trilene or not, and that the result is that there is no analgesia being given? Will he put that right?

It is the duty of the local authorities, and they are all doing their best in this matter. I can quite understand their hope that this much simpler apparatus will be approved.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Minnit form of analgesia is highly unpopular, and that many mothers reject it? Does he think that he should take powers to force trilene to be used by midwives when the medical profession definitely agrees that it is dangerous to mothers who may be suffering from hyper-tension or heart trouble?

I quite agree that it would be quite improper on my part to force any of these things on any mother who did not want them. One of the difficulties about training is that, in some of the hospitals, many of the mothers refuse to have any of this apparatus. On the other hand, the Central Midwives Council and the Medical Research Council are investigating this problem.

In view of the supplementary question of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison), will the right hon. Gentleman see that the report is forthcoming as early as possible?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland by what date will all practising midwives be trained in the use of analgesia.

I hope that by the end of 1950 over three-quarters of the midwives then practising in Scotland will have been trained and my aim is to have the process substantially complete by the end of 1951.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether all local authorities in Scotland are carrying out schemes to provide analgesia and transport to every confinement in their areas.

Every local authority in Scotland is operating under approved statutory proposals which require them to secure, as soon as possible, that their domiciliary midwives are suitably trained, and are provided with the necessary apparatus, drugs, and transport, to provide a full analgesia service for women confined in their own homes.

Will the Secretary of State ensure that in Scotland local authorities will have these new forms of apparatus when available, and in the meantime will he press forward with the provision of the Minnit apparatus, unsatisfactory though it is?

I have been encouraging them so to do, and I understand that they are doing it; but I quite understand the reluctance to purchase and employ this much more cumbrous apparatus if there is a possibility at an early date of having a simpler apparatus available.

Referring to the original answer, is that not just another example of Scotland giving a lead to England?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the mothers of Scotland are well satisfied with the 1937 Maternity Services Act, which provides for a doctor and an anaesthetist, and that this Act is in operation in many parts of Scotland. Is he further aware that the medical officer of health for Aberdeenshire, which some hon. Members opposite represent, completely repudiates what he calls "ill-informed, ignorant criticism on the part of politicians" in this matter?

I think that this is a matter where we should distinguish between cases where a doctor is present, who can use any apparatus which is proper for the purpose, and cases where only midwives are present, which are the cases under review.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the hon. Lady is somewhat misinformed on this matter, and is he also aware that in parts of Scotland it is quite impossible to provide a doctor for every confinement? It is in those areas that we seek to provide trained midwives equipped with proper analgesic apparatus.