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Hospital Beds (Private Patients)

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 29 April 1954

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asked the Minister of Health what steps are taken to ensure that private beds are not reserved for the use of fee-paying patients when there are urgent or chronic cases on the general waiting list.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health
(Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

The National Health Service Act, 1946, specifically provides for patients in urgent medical need of treatment to be admitted to a pay bed without charge if no alternative accommodation is available. My right hon. Friend has brought this to the notice of hospital authorities, and has also asked them to ensure that pay beds not in full use for private patients are used for other patients whether urgent cases or not.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say what view her right hon. Friend takes, not merely in connection with my own constituency but generally, of the heavy fees that are paid by private patients for minor operations, like the removal of tonsils, for which they are able to get immediate attention within a week of the arrangement being made with the specialist or consultant concerned, whereas children who, in the opinion of their parents, are suffering from defective tonsils have to wait as long as six months before they can get the operation done.

I hope the hon. Member will not exaggerate these claims, because in the case of hospitals in which he himself is interested my right hon. Friend did assure him that whereas 25 tonsillectomies were done a week under the National Health Service there were only four a year done on private fee-paying patients. I can assure the hon. Member that if there is any evidence which he or other hon. Members wish to bring to my right hon. Friend's attention, we shall be very glad to go into it in order to ensure that there is no abuse. I do not think it is fair to suggest that there is this widespread abuse when the case which we investigated for the hon. Gentleman is not justified.