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National Health Service

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 23 June 1949

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Treatment (Information)


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the uncertainty among a considerable section of the community about their rights to hospital and specialist treatment under the Health Service, he will issue, on a national scale, a leaflet indicating the main types of treatment available and the methods to be followed in securing them.

A leaflet on these lines was distributed to every household in the Spring of 1948, and information is also available at local information bureaux.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that patients, having been informed by the doctor that they are urgently in need of specialist treatment, are often told that they can obtain it only if they pay privately?

I should like to have information of any case of that sort, because f that is done, it is, of course, extremely improper.

Dentures (Quality)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that some dentists, by alleging that dentures of a satisfactory standard of quality and workmanship cannot be supplied under the Health Service, are inducing patients to pay high prices for private treatment; and what steps he proposes to take to end this practice and to inform the public of the true position.

A dentist who disparages the quality of treatment or appliances available under the National Health Service in order to induce a patient to pay privately, may well be committing a breach of his terms of service and any such case should be referred to the Executive Council for investigation under the regulations.

Hospital Patients


asked the Minister of Health if he will draw the attention of regional hospital boards to the importance of ensuring that priority in the allocation of private wards is given to non-paying patients who are in need of privacy on medical grounds.

My information is that boards already follow this practice, but I shall be glad to look into any case if my hon. Friend will give me particulars.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the difficulty usually arises when the private beds are filled with paying patients and a non-paying patient needs a bed on medical grounds and none is available? Will he draw the attention of the regional hospitals boards to this point?

I have made an audit as to what extent this is happening, and I have taken the return in 69 hospitals having 847 private pay-beds. Of those, 342 were at the time of the inquiry occupied by non-paying patients on medical grounds.


asked the Minister of Health if the review has been completed of the waiting lists of hospitals in respect of each of the London regional

MedicalSurgicalEar Nose and ThroatTuberculosisOthersTotal
N.W. Metropolitan1,15014,3867,0001,43848324,457
N.E. Metropolitan4539,3446,2591,0584,17221,286
S.E. Metropolitan6175,71910,1291,1285,70023,293
S.W. Metropolitan8537,9348,0821,0983,06621,033

It will be noted that a very large proportion of the waiting lists consist of Ear, Nose and Throat cases, the majority of them are awaiting tonsillectomy.



asked the Minister of Health why William Barnes, of 10, Faraday Avenue, Sidcup, who had his eyes tested on 26th November, 1948, is still without glasses after six months and five days.


asked the Minister of Health why Mr. W. R. Hands, 164, Fenton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, who is 83 years old, has not yet received glasses under the National Health Scheme which he urgently needs, and for which he has been waiting since November, 1948.

hospital boards; and if he will now publish a list showing the numbers of patients on each list as at the last convenient date.

Yes, Sir, but as the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware of the deep anxiety amongst the public and amongst doctors at the length of waiting lists, and will he take some steps to grapple with that situation?

I have already asked the Central Health Services Council to inquire into what urgently can be done in this matter, but it would be quite a mistake to say that the lists are unusually or abnormally long.

Can my right hon. Friend say how these lists compare with the lists before the National Health Service came into operation?

The answer to that is that the information was never accurate and we could not make a comparison, but we know they were very long lists.

Following is the answer:

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

Is not that answer evidence of the inability of this Government to fulfil their promises?

All arrangements are being made for the production of spectacle lenses at the present time, and more than 50 per cent. more are being produced than was the case before 5th July. Most of the lenses are provided by private enterprise.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these typical delays are due to shortages of spectacle lenses, and is he doing anything to bring in supplies from abroad and particularly from the soft currency areas, to meet this demand?

Yes, we have purchased lenses from abroad in order to meet the unusual demand, and we are using all the resources at our disposal.

Is the Minister aware that there are some people, who, realising the shortage of lenses, attend their opticians as private patients and so get their glasses in five or six weeks by paying for them, while others have to wait six or seven months?

Is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend has been in correspondence with my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. G. Wallace) on the subject of Mr. Barnes' case in view of the fact that Mr. Barnes is a constituent of my hon. Friend?

Dental Treatment


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that dentists in Winchester are refusing to accept patients under the National Health Service; and whether he will take immediate action to deal with this unofficial strike.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered correspondence from the Cardiff dentists indicating a refusal to undertake any more dental work under the Health Act; and what action he proposes to take.

I am aware that in several parts of the country some dentists have announced that they propose to accept no more patients under the National Health Service for the present, but I hope that on further reflection wiser counsels will prevail.

Would my right hon. Friend consider using the armed Forces of the Crown to break this strike, as they have been used in other cases? Would he consider asking his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to get the Army Dental Corps to open up surgeries?

Probably the Services dental organisation is already fully occupied. If I can find out that there are idle dentists in the Services, I will have a talk to my right hon. Friend about it.

Can my right hon. Friend tell us when he expects to be able to say that this difficulty has been cleared up? Dentists in Cardiff are rushing to fill their lists to be paid under the old system, and they can afford to go on for a time.

That is why I would not take too much notice of these threats at the present time. We have had the threats before and they have not always been fulfilled.

Would it not be fair to add that a large number of dentists have been overworking ever since the Health Service began, that many of them have worked themselves to a standstill, and that this is one of the few things that are left to them to do?

It is true that many dentists have been working very hard since the scheme began. The whole country is grateful to them. It is also clear that they have been excellently rewarded.

Surgery Accommodation, Grangetown


asked the Minister of Health what further steps he has taken to ensure that the four Grangetown doctors who share one surgery, having closed their other surgery when the new Health Act came into force, are fulfilling their obligation to provide adequate surgery accommodation for their patients, in view of the daily queues caused by the present inadequate facilities.

This is primarily a matter for the Cardiff Executive Council but I understand that one of the doctors is proposing to apply for a licence to build a residence near Cardiff and would then be able to vacate the accommodation which he and his partner occupy at the premises at 150, Clare Road, Grangetown.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to convey to the local executive council a deep sense of urgency in this matter, as there is considerable public inconvenience?

I am sure that the executive council will be aware both of the Question and of the answer.

Water Supplies (Horncastle And Spilsby)


asked the Minister of Health on how many occasions the Horncastle and Spilsby Rural District Councils have been informed of the amount of grant which the water schemes which they have proposed will attract.

The Horncastle Rural District Council have been informed that a grant of £1,100 will be made towards one small water supply scheme. No grant has yet been promised to the Spilsby Rural District Council.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be of great assistance to local authorities in getting on with the work of supplying water in these outlying rural areas if the local authorities were informed what the grant will be, and will he not see that this is done?

I cannot inform local authorities what the grants will be until we know what the cost will be.

Official Histories Of The War


asked the Prime Minister when the publication of the Official Histories of the War is likely to begin.

As the House is aware, the Official Histories of the War are being prepared in two series, a military series and a series dealing with the civilian war effort. The first volume in the civil series is being published today. It is "British War Economy" by Professor W. K. Hancock, Chichele Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford, who is the editor of the series, and Mrs. M. M. Gowing. This is in the nature of an introductory volume to the series, and gives a general survey of the central direction and development of economic policy during the war.

Could the Prime Minister say how soon we may expect further volumes on the war effort apart from the civil front, and how soon we may expect further volumes on the civil front?

I am afraid I could not give the information with regard to the volumes on the civil war effort without notice, but the military history will take some time.

Could the Prime Minister tell us what the price of the volumes will be?

Royal Commission On Population (Report)


asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the report of the Royal Commission on Population.

The report is receiving the consideration of the Government. In view of the range of the recommendations it will not be possible to make a statement in the immediate future.

Will the Prime Minister express to the members of this Commission what is, I am sure, the feeling of all intelligent citizens, our indebtedness for the valuable work done; and is he further aware that apparently less intelligent parents like myself, who enjoy having bigger-than-average families, eagerly await the Government's decision?

Is the Prime Minister aware that a message in an evening paper today, emanating from Wimbledon or some such place, bears the heading "Britain's Only Survivor"? Will he undertake to grasp the situation firmly before it comes to that?