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National Health Service

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 27 March 1952

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Mental Defectives


asked the Minister of Health how many mental defectives have been received into institutional care from the area of Divisional Health Committee No. 9 of the Lancashire County Council by the Liverpool and Manchester regional hospital boards, respectively, during each of the last two convenient years; and how many of these were under 16 years of age.

In the Manchester region, in 1950, four patients from this area over 16 were received in mental deficiency institutions, and in 1951 one patient over 16 and one patient under 16. In the Liverpool region, no patients from this area were received in institutions in 1950 or 1951; but in 1951 two were taken to places of safety under Section 15 of the Mental Deficiency Act.

Does the hon. Lady not think that these figures show that neither of those regional hospital boards is giving adequate service to these very unforunate young children, and will she take steps to see that the selection of children does meet the needs of this area?

The Liverpool Regional Hospital Board is very much alive to the limited accommodation which it has for defectives, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that special arrangements are being made to increase the accommodation in the Liverpool region by the development of the mental deficiency colony at Greaves Hall.


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the shortage of institutional accommodation for mentally defective children in the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board area; and whether he will take steps to improve the position.

Yes, Sir; my right hon. Friend is now reviewing proposals made by the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board to relieve the shortage.

Dental Goods Industry


asked the Minister of Health what consultations he has had with representatives of the dental goods industry following the publication of the annual report on the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act.

None, Sir; but consultations will take place from time to time as necessary to ensure that the criticisms of the Monopolies Commission are met.

Is the hon. Lady not aware that consultations are promised on this subject in the annual report of the Board of Trade? Is she further aware that the Board of Trade shows that by December the industry had not yet fulfilled the undertakings which it gave as long ago as last July?

The right hon. Gentleman may be aware that many of the Commission's criticisms were left, as the Commission recommended, to be dealt with by the industry itself, and the Association of Dental Manufacturers and Traders has undertaken to make a comprehensive revision of the rules and regulations, which is in course of being done for this purpose. Meanwhile a number of price reductions have already been made by manufacturers since the publication of the report in lines of goods which, in the Commission's view, yielded an undue share of profit. Throughout these negotiations the Department has been in consultation on the revision of these rules, and so far as the Board of Trade is concerned in this matter, it has been kept in the discussions.

Will the hon. Lady convey to her right hon. Friend that the vigour or otherwise with which he pursues this matter will be regarded as a test of the seriousness of the promises which the present Government gave to the electorate to strengthen the Monopolies Commission.

The hon. Lady mentioned that price reductions had taken place. I am a dental surgeon, and I do not think that the dentists have noticed any substantial reductions at all.

I think that if the hon. Gentleman will refer to the items he will find that there has been a reduction, among others, in acrilic materials and teeth. He will find, too, that a minor restrictive agreement concerning burs, and operated by one firm, was brought to an immediate end on the publication of the report.

Day Nursery, Carlisle


asked the Minister of Health, in view of the public meeting of protest held in Carlisle on 12th March, 1952, against the decision to close the Currock day nursery, and, in view of its importance to mothers engaged in industry, if he will take action to disapprove this decision, so that the day nursery may continue.

The closing of this nursery does not need my right hon. Friend's consent, and he does not feel called on to intervene.

Is the hon. Lady aware that an expression of disapproval from the Department would lead to a reconsideration of the position, which, undoubtedly, has caused a good deal of concern and alarm?

I am informed that there are two nurseries neither of which is fully used. The remaining nursery of 50 places should provide adequately for children needing accommodation on health or social grounds.

Permanent Invalids (Accommodation)


asked the Minister of Health how many institutions exist under his control specifically for the accommodation of permanent invalids in early and middle life; and what is the capacity of those institutions.

Two separate establishments with 54 beds are now in process of conversion to this use. Five other special sections of larger hospitals provide 109 beds, and three more units with 72 beds are in various stages of preparation.

Does not my hon. Friend recognise that there is still in this respect a gap in the Service, and will the Minister continue his efforts to close the gap?

While appreciating the remarks of my hon. Friend, I must say that I am sure he will recognise that the number of hospital patients in this group is not large—possibly between 400 and 500 spread throughout the whole country. It is very difficult to place them because it is necessary, we feel, to accommodate them within a reasonable distance of visiting relatives. It is, therefore, our policy to foster the development of smaller groups in hospitals.

Out-Patient Departments (Appointments)


asked the Minister of Health if he will look into the present system of making hospital appointments for out-patient departments, to see if the present lengthy period of waiting for such patients can be done away with.

Hospitals have already been urged to introduce an efficient appointments system in out-patient departments so as to reduce waiting time to the minimum. If my hon. Friend has in mind particular hospitals where the system is not working well, I should be glad to make inquiries.

While some waiting time is to be expected, does my hon. Friend not realise that some patients wait hours for treatment in hospital, and that if this were looked into the medical staff would be saved much effort, and things would be better for the patients?