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Volume 465: debated on Thursday 26 May 1949

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asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in the case of an eleven year old boy at Kettering an oculist's prescription under the National Health Service was handed to an optician six months ago and no spectacles have yet been delivered; and what steps he proposes to take to expedite the delivery of spectacles to schoolchildren in the area, whose eyes may be damaged by work at school without proper spectacles.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) on 19th May.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that that referred to a scheme by which opticians might give priority; and will he consider the advisability of arranging for doctors and ophthalmic surgeons to give priority in the case of these children, particularly where delay may obviously be very bad for their eyes?

It is extremely difficult to work a priority service. If too many people are put into the priority classes, that merely disturbs the distribution of spectacles all round. I am doing my very utmost in this matter. We have increased production by 50 per cent. above what it was before this scheme started, but the demand for spectacles still exceeds production.

Would not one useful step towards avoiding these delays to schoolchildren's spectacles be to put visitors from abroad at the bottom of the waiting list?

I had not time on Tuesday to give the explanation about visitors from abroad. The fact is that hon. Members opposite are riding that horse to death. If we eliminated all the medical attention given to visitors from abroad, it would equal less than 01 per cent. of the total health expenditure.

When this scheme is prepared and in operation, will my right hon. Friend take steps to see that it is sufficiently publicised, particularly in the schools?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very serious effect which this delay is having upon many schoolchildren who are having to sit in the front row in class because they cannot see, and who are also suffering grievously from headaches?

I believe it is desirable that we should try to provide spectacles for these young children as early as possible; but they went without them for many years previously.


asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to relieve the shortage of spectacles in Swindon.

While delay is unfortunately general I am not aware of any peculiar difficulties in Swindon. All possible steps are being taken to increase the supply of spectacles generally, both by expanding production in this country and by imports from abroad.

If I send my right hon. Friend a report showing that Swindon people have been kept waiting for eight months, and sometimes for a year, will he look into it?