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Volume 640: debated on Monday 15 May 1961

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New Hospital, Wexham


asked the Minister of Health if he has now authorised the construction of the new hospital at Wexham, Buckinghamshire; and when work is proposed to start on the building.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when that is likely to be? Is he aware of the needs of the expanding population in the neighbourhood of Slough, on the Langley London County Council estate, the Britwell London County Council estate and the Wexham estate, which make the need for this hospital urgent?

Yes, I am aware of those matters, and that is why I have authorised the hospital authority to go to tender. I dare say that a start will be made as soon as tenders are in and a contractor has been selected.

Three Counties Mental Hospital, Arlesey


asked the Minister of Health when the London Chest Hospital, Country Branch, Arlesey, will be vacating accommodation it at present occupies at the Three Counties Mental Hospital, Arlesey.

I am consulting the board of governors and will communicate with my hon. Friend.

In his investigation, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, although the work of the London Chest Hospital is much appreciated locally, the Three Counties Hospital is badly understaffed at the moment; both men and women recruits to the staff have had to be turned away solely because of lack of accommodation?

Yes, Sir, but the future development of the London Chest Hospital is a factor which, in part at any rate, determines the rate at which the site in question can be relinquished.

Hammersmith Hospital (Appointment)


asked the Minister of Health what decision he has made with regard to an inquiry into the appointment of a new secretary to the Board of Governors of the Hammersmith Post-Graduate Teaching Hospital Group.

That was a fortnight ago, and the Minister said he would look into the matter as soon as possible. In view of the widespread concern both inside and outside the hospital service about this appointment, and his own duty in the matter, will the Minister deal with it more expeditiously and come to a decision very soon?

Drugs (Purchases)


asked the Minister of Health what is the approximate purchase price to hospitals of such average prescriptions to outpatients as 25 tablets aspirin 5 grain, 2 ounces liquid extract of malt, and 25 ascorbic acid 50 mg.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is utterly unfair that hospitals are expected to charge poor people 2s. for these typical prescriptions of which he has just given the price? In view of this, will he reconsider his prescription charges?

The figures which I gave in reply to the hon. Member's Question represent the costs of the ingredients. They are not the cost of dispensing prescriptions in these amounts, which, I am advised, would have been substantially over 2s. in each case.

St Andrew's Hospital, Billericay (Discharged Patient)


asked the Minister of Health if he will inquire into the case of Mrs. H. Salmons, Shaw Avenue, Barking, Essex, who was seriously injured in the Pitsea railway accident on 18th April, 1961, in which her husband was killed, and who was discharged from St. Andrew's Hospital, Billericay, 11 days later, still suffering considerable pain, with an intimation that, unless her relatives could arrange for her transport, she might have to travel home by train, as it was too far for an ambulance to go; and if he will make a statement.

I have had a report from the hospital management committee. I am told that, with Mrs. Salmons agreement, arrangements were made for her to go home in her son-in-law's car and she was considered fit to do so. There was no question of a train journey being the only alternative, and I am sorry that the misapprehension could arise.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how this misapprehension arose? Is he aware that a spokesman of the hospital has given an interview about this in the local Press—in itself a rather unusual procedure when a Question in this House is pending—in which it was admitted that a relative of this lady was told that it would be better to have a car for her, since an ambulance might not be able to take her all the way home, and that otherwise she might be sent by train—still suffering from serious injuries sustained in a train crash, ten days before, in which her husband was killed?

I have written to the hon. Member today in detail. He was good enough to give me details of this case, and I inquired into it. I am satisfied that there was no question of a train journey being the alternative to her being taken home by private car.

Would an ambulance in fact have been able to take her all the way from Billericay to Barking, which is not very far? If so, why was it ever suggested, even faintly, that she might have to go by train?

Not in all cases is ambulance the method by which patients on discharge return home. It appears to be the case, as the hon. Member says, that a train journey was mentioned among other alternatives on an occasion when this was discussed. There was no question that it was with that as the only alternative that she went home in a private car.

For the sake of the record, will the Minister make it clear that ambulances can, and frequently do, travel distances considerably in excess of this in the London area?

Calderstones Hospital (Discharged Patients)


asked the Minister of Health how many of the 551 patients discharged from compulsory powers at Calderstones Hospital during the six months to 1st May, 1961, have asked to be released; and how many have now left.

Patients not subject to detention do not have to ask for their discharge; 53 were already on leave of absence; 11 others have left.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that 551 is an extremely high number and that the numbers he has given form a very small proportion of the total? Is he aware of the feeling in Lancashire that many people have been wrongly detained in Calderstones Hospital in the past and that special measures should be taken to discharge them?

These patients or their relatives can secure their discharge from hospital without formality, but, as the hon. Member realises, in fact they are in need of the treatment and care which they receive at the hospital. No doubt that is the reason why the great majority of the informal patients remain there.

With regard to the high number 551, as I said to the hon. Member last week, this reflects the change both in the law and in outlook which was enshrined in the Mental Health Act, 1959.