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Ministry Of Health

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 15 July 1954

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Smoking (Lung Cancer)

16.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the current researches being conducted on this subject, if he will approach the American Medical Association and obtain their permission to publish as a White Paper their recent report on the relationship between cigarette smoking and cancer.

I see no good reason why a particular report of this kind, which is only one of several studies of the subject, should be published as a White Paper.

Since this is, I understand, an authoritative report by a responsible medical body, does my right hon. Friend not think that its publication would help to allay the understandable fears of smokers because of cancer and would help his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to retain the £630 million in duty which he gets from tobacco?

There are dozens of reports, all, presumably, claiming to be authoritative, being published at the present time. If my hon. Friend is a heavy smoker and is concerned about the connection between cancer of the lung and smoking, I would recommend him to give up reading.

Over-Prescribing

19 and 20.

asked the Minister of Health (1) the administrative cost of enforcing the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Prescribing, namely, the analysis of prescription returns, the investigation of cases of apparent above-average prescribing and the conduct of proceedings against doctors alleged to have failed to comply with the recommendations;

(2) how many doctors have been fined for failing to comply with the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Prescribing; what is the total amount of those fines; and what is the total above-average cost of the prescriptions involved in such cases.

My hon. Friend seems to be under some misapprehension. The Joint Committee's recommendations are not matters for legal enforcement, but doctors are asked to co-operate voluntarily in carrying them out. Penalties for excessive prescribing are governed by the statutory regulations, operative since 1948.

Have not the regulations been in force since July, 1943, entirely on the basis of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Prescribing, and cannot my hon. Friend supply me with the information asked for by the Questions on that basis?

The two matters are not connected. The question of prescribing, which is governed by regulations operative since 1948, has resulted in 21 cases being referred to the local medical committees. Perhaps, rather than take up the time of the House now, I could explain to my hon. Friend at some other time the complete difference between the two issues. The question of the Joint Committee's recommendations is a matter for voluntary co-operation from the doctors, which, in the main, we have received.

Having regard to the implications in these Questions, will the Minister undertake not to diminish her efforts to prevent over-prescribing and, indeed, profligate prescribing?

Is any action taken against patients who badger and bully doctors into giving them the kind of prescription they want on pain of their going elsewhere if they do not get it?

The executive councils can receive complaints from both patients and doctors and can investigate them.

Mental Health (Research)

28.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the need for expansion of research work in the treatment of the mentally sick, he will consider appointing a national research director to co-ordinate and expand the local work already being done.

In accordance with the recommendations in the Report on "Clinical Research in Relation to the National Health Service" a Clinical Research Board has already been appointed by the Medical Research Council, in consultation with my Department, to advise and assist the Council in promoting clinical research including research into the treatment of mental illness. No further appointments seem to be called for.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of elderly people who are suffering from senile decay have been certified as mentally deficient, and that the certification that they are mentally defective reflects on their sons and grandsons who, when they go abroad, cannot land if they cannot prove that they and their forebears were free from any mental disease? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter?

I recognise this problem but it is a different one from the one mentioned in the Question.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable concern at the fact that there is not nearly enough research into mental health? Is he aware that the Mental Research Council has devoted only 1 per cent. of its total expenditure since the war to research into mental health, and does he not agree that that is totally inadequate? Whether or not the method suggested in the Question is the right way to deal with it, will he look into the matter?

Yes, Sir. I am concerned with the problem, but I do not think that the solution suggested in this Question is the answer.

Health Centres

30.

asked the Minister of Health how many plans for the provision of health centres have been submitted to him for approval.

Eight schemes have been submitted and approved, including four centres now in operation, and 12 others are under consideration.

With the valuable experience we have gained during the last few years is it not time to give further encouragement to local authorities, especially in the new housing estates?

There are some centres being opened which are not local health authority centres, and provided a genuine need was established my right hon. Friend would favourably consider any project. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, opinion is by no means unanimous on the subject of health centres, which are still in the experimental stage.

In view of the developments that have taken place, the recommendations particularly of the Cohen Committee and the valuable experience we have had, is it not time to ease up on the restrictions which inevitably were in force in the early days?

Is the Minister aware that in Barton-on-Humber, in my constituency, where conditions are particularly favourable for the establishment of such a centre, the Minister so far has not looked favourably upon such a scheme?

Can the hon. Lady say how many of these applications have been received from the new towns?

Surgeries (Inspection)

31.

asked the Minister of Health how many health executive councils, either directly or through medical committees, have carried out inspections of surgery and waiting room accommodation in their areas.

My right hon. Friend regrets that this information is not available.

In view of the strong recommendation of the Cohen Committee should not the attention of executive councils be drawn to their responsibility for seeing that surgeries are in a proper condition?

The fact that specific instructions have not gone forth from my right hon. Friend does not mean that nothing has been done. As the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, the Cohen Committee has reported and my right hon. Friend is consulting the profession to see what action may be taken through executive councils. This follows up the very strong recommendation contained in the letter previously sent out by Dr. Talbot Rogers to general practitioners about accommodation. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter is being very actively pursued.