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Inoculated Children (Health Effects)

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 13 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction felt by Mr. Bradshaw, particulars of whose case have been submitted to his Department, about the treatment given to his child Jane, who is suffering from speech deformity following the last of a series of four inoculations for diphtheria and whooping cough; that, as Mr. Bradshaw could see no improvement in his child's health following attendance at a public clinic as such attendance affected the nerves of both mother and child, he sent her to a speech therapist with beneficial results; and whether, in view of the special circumstances, he will make some payment to Mr. Bradshaw for the treatment the child is now receiving.

On a point of order. Before the Question is answered I want to emphasise that it relates to the combined inoculations against diphtheria and whooping cough, and not against diphtheria alone. There has been some misunderstanding on the subject.

I have carefully examined the facts of this distressing case, but I do not consider the circumstances are such as would justify a contribution towards the cost of private treatment.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that two doctors have testified that they considered that the defective speech of this child is due to these injections? Is he further aware that teachers under the National Health Service simply have not the time to give proper treatment to this child? Why should these unfortunate parents have to pay large sums of money to try to save this child's life because of what they and certain doctors consider to be the bad treatment of the National Health Service?

I cannot accept that statement. It is certainly a possibility, but it is not certain that this speech defect is due to the inoculations. As far as treatment for Jane is concerned, it has (been suggested—and I make the offer again—that we should, if necessary, give extra time out of ordinary clinic hours, in the babies' hospital, to this very difficult case. I do not think we can do more than that. If the parents accept that offer, or my hon. and gallant Friend will consult me on the matter, I shall see what I can do, but all the conditions of treatment are available for use within the National Health Service.

Will the Minister confirm that his answer means that full facilities for speech therapy treatment are available in the National Health Service for this child?

Yes, Sir. It is fair to say that the parents were rather dissatisfied with the amount of time which could be given to any one child, and, therefore, wanted to have private treatment outside the scheme, which they are quite entitled to do.


asked the Minister of Health the number of children during the last five years whose health was affected by inoculation for diphtheria and whooping cough; how many of these cases received treatment under the National Health Service; in how many cases the children regained their full health; and in how many cases there is permanent injury or deep-seated injury.

I regret that the detailed information asked for is not available, but serious illness attributable to inoculation is known to be extremely rare.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since I tabled this Question I have received evidence from parents all over the country on this subject? One poor woman has three children out of four whose speech has been affected. If I send him particulars of these cases will my right hon. Friend promise to look into them very carefully and, if necessary, inquire into the whole matter?

It is true that there is a minimal hazard attached to immunisation. We all know that. But it is equally true that the importance which has been attached to such immunisation in recent years has done an enormous amount to lessen the incidence of these diseases.

Can the Minister say what proportion of cases were affected by paralysis of the palate when they suffered from diphtheria before inoculation was invented? Was it not much higher then than it is now?

I have not those figures with me, but I will see whether they are available. Certainly, the number, in relation to the total number of diphtheria inoculations carried out each year—which is more than a million—is tiny.

My right hon. Friend has missed my point. We all admit that these inoculations do a tremendous amount of good. I am complaining that there are cases where the wretched parents are hit very hard. This poor woman has three children out of four—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Speech my foot. My right hon. Friend cannot explain that away.

I am not trying to explain anything away. This is a very distressing case. I have read all the papers with great care, and I shall be happy to discuss the matter with my hon. and gallant Friend. It still remains true that medicine is not an exact science, and that risks are attached to immunisation or any other form of treatment.


asked the Minister of Health whether, under his regulations, special treatment, outside the National Health Service, is ever given to children in cases where a deterioration in a child's health may be the result of treatment or action by a National Health Service doctor or hospital.