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National Health Service

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 14 April 1949

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Patients (Clinical Information)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the senior administrative medical officer of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board has instructed medical officers at venereal disease clinics in the area that information about patients attending the clinics should not be disclosed to medical officers of health, even if requested for purposes of contact tracing; and, in view of the fact that medical officers of health in all parts of the country have always had free access to information about patients, which they have treated with confidence, if he will take steps to have this instruction withdrawn forthwith.

The Regional Hospital Board has rightly taken this step to ensure that the statutory regulation about secrecy of V.D. treatment is scrupulously observed.

Is the Minister aware that in the interests of an efficient health service it is vital that there should be the same free access to information by medical officers of health which they have had in the past not only for the essential purpose of contact tracing, but in order to ensure that proper after-care attention can be given to children whose mothers are known to have suffered from this disease?

It is not necessary for the purposes that my hon. Friend has in mind that there should be a disclosure of clinical details to medical officers of health. The patient's own doctor is, of course, made aware of all the circumstances.

How can health visitors deal with these matters unless they know the facts of the case?

The man's own doctor will be aware of all the facts of the case, and as the man's own doctor is a family physician, he will be concerned about the welfare of the children.


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the senior administrative medical officer of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board has advised the secretary of the Bolton Hospital Management Committee that if medical officers of health ask for information about patients who are discharged from hospital and are in need of aftercare, only the address need be given; and, in view of the fact that after-care attention is often necessary and that children classed as handicapped are entirely the responsibility of the local authority, if he will take steps to cancel this instruction.

I understand that the Board has encouraged management committees to co-operate fully with local authorities but has rightly advised them not to disclose to them clinical details of patients which should generally be treated as confidential.

Will the Minister bear in mind that under the National Health Act there is a responsibility on local authorities in respect of after-care work, and to refuse medical officers of health any information other than the address is to reduce them to the level of laboratory assistants which will have a deleterious effect on the whole health service?

My hon. Friend is attributing a status to the medical officers of health which they themselves do not claim. He ought not to refer to them in such terms. It is undesirable that there should be a general access to clinical details of patients' conditions. It is only necessary for that to be done where tracing is absolutely essential.

Nurses (State Register)


asked the Minister of Health if he will give an undertaking that the printing, publishing and placing on sale of the State Register of Nurses shall not be abolished as advised by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales, the governing body of the nursing profession.

This matter is dealt with in the Bill which has now been introduced in another place.

Will the Minister answer my Question? Is he aware that nurses value registration?

If the hon. Member will look at the Bill which is being introduced in another place he will find his Question answered there.

Hospitals (Administrative Staffs)


asked the Minister of Health how many hospitals have come under the jurisdiction of his Department since the National Health Service Act came into operation; how many persons in such hospitals are now paid for doing work which was previously done voluntarily; and what is the total cost of employing such persons.

Two thousand, eight hundred and thirty-five hospitals and convalescent homes were transferred to the Minister on the appointed day. I regret that the information asked for in the second and third parts of the Question is not available.

But does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he ought to get such information in view of the fact that a return to the voluntary system might offer quite considerable opportunities for economy in this field?

The voluntary system of administration has not been departed from. The voluntary system is being administered by 10,000 to 11,000 devoted voluntary workers.

But is not the Minister also aware that there are many instances of people who were doing voluntary work in such positions as treasurers to hospitals who are now getting salaries of £1,400 or £1,500?

Can my right hon. Friend say how many people are now getting into hospitals who could not get in before because they did not know the right person?

Opticians (Inquiry)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that, owing to the fact that anyone may practise as an optician, even though he has no qualifications for doing so, members of the public have, on occasions in recent years, been seriously defrauded; and whether he will introduce legislation to enable him to require the registration of opticians.

It has been decided to set up a committee to inquire into this question. The precise form which the inquiry is to take is not yet settled but I hope to be able to make a further announcement shortly.

Would the Minister kindly consider the possibility of warning the public against the activities of certain bogus opticians pending the findings of that committee and taking action upon them?

If the hon. Member will bring to my notice any bogus opticians he has in mind, I will certainly do so.

Medical Practices (Disposal)


asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware that medical practices are still being advertised by private agencies for sale and purchase; and what steps he proposes to take to put an end to this practice;

(2) whether he can now make arrangements to establish official agencies for the transfer of medical practices, partnerships and assistantships.

There is no prohibition on the sale and purchase of purely private practices and I see no objection to such transactions being handled by private agencies. The transfer of practices, and the introduction of new partners and assistants, in the National Health Service, are already controlled by the appropriate official bodies.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that practices are being advertised which include as part of their income the income from the National Health Service? And does he not regard it as highly undesirable that the professional careers of duly qualified medical men should be left in the hands of these commercial agencies?

If my hon. Friend will let me have information about such advertisements, I will have inquiries made.