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National Health Service

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 7 July 1949

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Doctors' Prescriptions

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that much larger quantities of medicines are frequently supplied on National Health Service prescriptions than are necessary; and what steps are being taken to prevent such waste of public money.

A doctor whose prescriptions suggest extravagance may have his prescribing investigated by a local professional committee. Before this he would be given the opportunity of explaining his reasons to, and being advised by, one of my Department's medical officers.

Appliances (Supply)

24.

asked the Minister of Health how many deaf aids and surgical appliances, dental treatment and pairs of spectacles and any other specialised service of which he has a record have been supplied since the National Health Service came into operation.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, give the information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any comparative figures of previous periods dealing with this same subject, and if so, will be publish them at the same time?

Following is the information:

Number of items provided in England and Wales since 5th July, 1948.

Hearing aids (electrical and non-electrical)—27,000.

Surgical and medical appliances (hospital service)—164,000 (see note ( a)).

Dental treatments (in general service)—6,800,000 (see note ( b)).

Glasses (supplementary ophthalmic service)—4,500,000 (see note ( c)).

  • (a) Figures for appliances supplied through the general medical service are not available.
  • (b) This includes all forms of treatment, and is not limited to dentures. Figures for dental treatment at hospital are not available.
  • (c) Figures for glasses supplied through the hospital eye service are not available.
  • Hospitals (Baby Cots)

    29.

    asked the Minister of Health what instructions he has given to hospitals regarding the maximum space between the bars of baby cots.

    I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the circular issued to hospitals on this subject.

    I have seen it, and I was wondering whether it had occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that the hospital authorities, regional and local boards, to say nothing of the matrons and others, are quite capable of ordering baby cots without being instructed by the Minister's circular.

    The hon. and gallant Member is quite wrong in his supplementary question. It was found that a baby had died as a consequence of the distance between the bars of the cot being too wide. As soon as we heard of that we immediately made a recommendation as to the kind of cots which should be used in order to prevent a recurrence of that tragedy, and I am really astonished that an attempt should be made to cover with ridicule a piece of proper administration.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the circular suggested that where the space between the bars was wider than the measurements mentioned, netting should be used, and does he realise the danger to the baby which might be caused by its sucking the netting?

    All these matters were taken into account. My technical advisers at the Ministry are probably more competent than the hon. and gallant Member to determine such questions.

    Can we take it that my right hon. Friend has also circulated this most helpful advice and guidance to the private manufacturers of these cots?

    It obviously follows that as soon as we decided to standardise the kind of cot we are to use in hospitals and maternity homes, the manufacturers of the cots will be notified immediately.

    Hearing Aids

    31.

    asked the Minister of Health why Mr. L. T. A. Randall, of 41, Grange Road, Orpington, who was examined at Farnborough Hospital last February for deafness, and on the advice of the surgeon wrote to King's College Hospital on 7th, 21st and 30th May, which letters have not been acknowledged, has not received a hearing aid, particulars of which have been sent him; and if he will take immediate steps to see that Mr. Randall's hearing aid is supplied.

    This patient appears to have no claim for preferential treatment, but he will receive an aid as soon as one is available.

    Is not this another example of the incapability of the Government to implement their promise of a Socialist Utopia which they made in 1945?

    Aural aids are being distributed at present as fast as the professional services required for their administration can handle them. Indeed we have had very many letters from all over the country expressing high praise for the aural aid.

    Doctors' Motor Cars

    32.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the efficiency of the National Health Service is being gravely impaired by the inability of doctors to obtain new cars; and whether he will consult with the manufacturers and with the other Departments concerned, with a view to arranging for an effective priority for the supply of new cars to be given to doctors whose existing cars require replacement.

    I am aware of the difficulties which are not, of course, peculiar to doctors. Motor car distributors and dealers have already been asked to give preference to doctors whose need is urgent, and these arrangements were made after considering representations from the profession's representatives.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman examine the evidence which I have sent him and which clearly shows that, in the East Riding of Yorkshire at any rate, there is no adequate supply of new cars for doctors, and does it not seem pointless to spend these vast sums on the National Health Service if the right hon. Gentleman will not take elementary steps to see that doctors can get to their jobs?

    The figures, which I think were given by the East Yorkshire branch of the British Medical Association, show that out of 114 of the doctors who had applied, 76 had post-war cars and only 38 had what were described as unsuitable pre-war cars.

    Health Centres

    33.

    asked the Minister of Health how many health centres have been set up throughout the country; how many are in the process of being set up and if he will make a statement on the general progress of health centres.

    Twenty-six existing clinics are being run as health centres, medical or dental. One important new scheme is under way, and three other proposals are being considered. Meanwhile a special committee of the Central Health Services Council has the whole subject of future development in view.

    In view of the very great importance of health centres, will not the Minister follow the example of his late and great compatriot, Mr. Lloyd George, who studied the labour exchanges in Germany, and himself make a study of the highly efficient and modern health centres in Czechoslovakia?

    I should not like to model our social services on those of Czechoslovakia.

    Spectacles (Butchers)

    34.

    asked the Minister of Health what special arrangements are made under the National Health Service for the issue of additional spectacles to butchers.

    On a point of Order. Before this Question is answered, might I ask for your guidance? I have always understood that the Clerks at the Table would refuse to accept any Question which was ironical. Surely, Sir, this Question can only refer to the efforts of the butchers to see the present meat ration.

    That is entirely a matter of opinion. I am no judge of that. Mr. Bevan.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread Conservative propaganda to the effect that butchers are abusing the scheme? Is there any evidence of that?

    There is no evidence as far as I know. In certain circumstances—and this can arise in some professions—a person requires spectacles for near sight, middle sight and far sight. Where a third sight is involved, special application must be made to the ophthalmic committee of the executive council, who will then examine all the facts.

    Is it not a fact that what the butchers need is not so much spectacles as microscopes?

    Capital Expenditure

    37.

    asked the Minister of Health what is the total amount of capital expenditure on the National Health Service since its inception; and if he will give an estimate of the proposed capital expenditure in the next three years.

    The total amount of capital expenditure on the National Health Service from its inception to 31st March, 1949, is estimated at £7,321,000. No estimate of the proposed capital expenditure in the next three years can be made at present as this is dependent on the Government's programme of capital investments, which is under consideration.

    Is the Minister aware that mad expenditure by his Department is one of the main reasons for the economic crisis?

    The supplementary question is as irrelevant as such questions usually are when they come from the hon. Member.

    London Lock Hospital

    42.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the proposal of the regional hospital board that the London Lock Hospital should cease to be used as a hospital for the treatment of venereal diseases; and whether such action has received his approval or sanction.

    This proposal has not been before me officially, because the regional hospital board's delegated powers for the planning and development of hospital services in their area do not require them to obtain my approval before they make changes in the use of particular hospitals.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman take special action to see that this proposal is not carried through, in view of the opposition of consultants and specialists and venereologists?

    If representations are made to me that a particular hospital ought not to be diverted from or to a particular purpose, I will take such representations into account.

    Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the regional hospital board gave the most careful and sympathetic consideration to the case of the Lock Hospital, and that it was only after this matter had been discussed very carefully for a very long time that they reached this decision?

    I think it is obviously desirable that the regional boards should not be interfered with too much in their detailed plans by the central authority.