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Volume 530: debated on Thursday 15 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that there is a sufficiency of trained staff to deal with an outbreak of poliomyelitis such as occurred in Canada in 1953; and what action is being taken to give special training to nursing staffs in hospitals.

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

Sufficient trained staff should be available, if arrangements are made to transfer volunteer nurses from the general hospitals to the special units which my right hon. Friend has advised regional hospital boards to set up. Most of the boards have already made such arrangements, and are also arranging for special training to be given to nurses seconded to infectious diseases hospitals.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that if we were so unfortunate as to have an outbreak of the type referred to in the Question, the trained staff now available would be sufficient?

It is reasonable to think so. Special steps have been taken and all the 14 regions already have centres with staff who have considerable experience in this matter; but we would obviously have to draw on volunteers if there was any unprecedented outbreak.


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the large numbers of cases of poliomyelitis that occurred in Denmark in 1952 many of which were of the bulbar paralytic type; and what steps have been taken since then to provide suitable treatment if such an outbreak affected Britain.

Yes, Sir. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of a memorandum which was circulated to hospital authorities in August, 1953, and on which action has now been taken all over England and Wales.

Does the Minister remember that in Denmark medical students had to be impressed in order to work an improvised iron lung and to work right through, day after day and night after night, to keep patients alive? Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is most essential to have a sufficiency of iron lungs throughout the country in case we have any difficulty of this kind?

Yes, Sir. The memorandum to which I have referred was prepared and circulated having particularly in mind the Danish experience. It takes all this into account and deals, in particular, with the formation of experienced teams to combat this disease.