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Volume 480: debated on Thursday 16 November 1950

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asked the Minister of Health how many notifications of new cases of tuberculosis in England and Wales were recorded in 1949.

I think it is an increase. These increases are due to the fact that we are now using mass radiography. Although we are discovering more tuberculosis of a respiratory kind—the increase in the number of notifications being 5½ per cent.—there has been a decrease in the number of deaths, over the last five years, of 12½ per cent.

In view of the fact that these tragic figures continue to rise and good housing is preventive medicine, will the right hon. Gentleman not now consider treating houses as a No. 1 priority?

The hon. Member has obviously ignored the last part of my last reply. The number of fatalities is falling, although the number of notified cases is on the increase. I should have thought that everyone would rejoice about that.


asked the Minister of Health what arrangements have been made to ensure that those who, as a result of the mass radiology tests are found to be in the early stages of tuberculosis have the requisite treatment.

They are referred to a chest physician and treated according to their need and the facilities available.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is not now very much delay in many cases before these people can get any sort of treatment?

There is delay. As I explained in answer to an earlier Question, many people have been discovered to be suffering from respiratory tuberculosis at an earlier stage, but, fortunately, the treatment is resulting in a reduction in the number of fatalities.


asked the Minister of Health how long a tuberculosis patient has now to wait for a hospital bed.

It depends so widely on the individual circumstances and local resources in each case that no average figure would have much meaning.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that this situation is improving, because it seems to a great many of us that it is getting steadily worse?

I have already indicated, in two answers, that the general overall position is improving.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the real problem is a shortage of nurses?

That is a reason why I issued a circular asking hospital authorities to make beds available for this type of case in general hospitals. I have had an interim report on the matter, and there has already been a very large increase in the number of beds.


asked the Minister of Health how many patients are waiting accommodation in tuberculosis hospitals and sanatoria at the most recent date for which figures are available.

Annual returns as at 31st December last showed that the number was then approximately 11,000.

In view of the long waiting lists of people for this kind of treatment, does the right hon. Gentleman feel that any revision in relation to priority of needs within the hospital service is called for and that any solution could be found by making use of beds which exist in Switzerland?

I have already replied that tuberculosis patients have been moved on the priority lists by asking the general hospitals to set aside wards for such patients.

Did not the Minister hear the concluding remarks of my hon. Friend's question, which was that he might give consideration to relieving these heavy lists by making use of the large number of beds available in Switzerland?

I have been prepared to consider it, but, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, currency difficulties are involved.

Yes, but is it not the case that currency difficulties have now existed for a considerable time? In view of the great shortage of beds and the well-known fact that it will not be possible to catch up with these lists in a reasonable time, could there not be some acceleration?

I shall be able to give to the House before very long a report on the progress which has been made in making beds available in this country.