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Volume 645: debated on Monday 24 July 1961

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Obstetrics (Report)


asked the Minister of Health what comments he has received from regional hospital boards and hospital management committees upon the Report of the Standing Maternity and Midwifery Advisory Committee of the Central Health Services Council dealing with human relations in obstetrics; and how many replies have indicated opposition to the recommendations of the Report.

Comments from boards are not due before 30th September, nor reports from committees before the end of this month. I will make the results public when they are to hand.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that one of the greatest difficulties in providing the best possible service in our hospitals is the shortage of nurses? Does he not think that the Committee took this matter too little into account in its recommendations and findings? Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the General Nursing Council to reduce the starting age for the training of nurses, because this might enable us to get more nurses and to put right some of the deficiencies which were pointed out by the Committee?

My hon. Friend's second point is a separate one. As regards the first, I believe that the Committee was right to place its main emphasis on the better use of trained staff, particularly nurses and midwives.

Royal Gwent Hospital


asked the Minister of Health when it is intended to place for contract part one of phase one of the building programme of the Royal Gwent Hospital; and when it is anticipated that the six operating theatres and maternity units included within this phase will be completed.

The whole of stage one should go to tender next year and be finished about 1965.

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary recognise the serious need of bringing this work forward and being able to get on with it, in view of the fact the existing operating theatres are described as hazardous by surgeons in charge of them? Cannot something be done to expedite this work?

I am aware of the need; we have discussed it in previous Questions. As, however, the hon. Member will know, it was at first thought that two major developments at this hospital would fulfil the need. To provide a fully adequate and satisfactory service, however, it was subsequently agreed that the whole of the hospital must be redeveloped, and it will take from three to four years to complete this phase.


asked the Minister of Health whether work has now been commenced on the two temporary huts intended to be constructed for the casualty department at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport; and when they will be completed.

Construction will begin on 1st October and should be finished by 1st April, 1962.

Geriatric Units


asked the Minister of Health when it is expected that the Hospital Design Unit will be able to make available to the regional hospital boards designs for standardised geriatric units which can be built quickly and economically.

The Design Unit produces building notes on the planning of various departments, including chronic sick wards, and is studying standard component parts which might be suitable for many types of hospital building. It is not proposed to design standard hospital departments.

Can my right hon. Friend look at this matter again? In view of the need for large-scale rebuilding of geriatric units, the production of standardised designs for complete units might be very helpful. Will he also consider asking the Design Unit to look at the need for standardised designs for units for the younger chronic sick persons suffering from disseminated sclerosis?

This is certainly a matter which one must continue to study and experiment with. My view at present, however, is that a standardised design for a whole department might have to be so much modified in different hospitals that it would not be very helpful. It is more useful to standardise the component parts rather than the whole department.

Starcross And Calderstones Mental Hosptals


asked the Minister of Health what is the number of patients at the Starcross and Calderstones mental hospitals; and how many of the patients at each of these hospitals which formerly only accommodated compulsorily detained patients are now informal patients as a result of being reclassified under the new Mental Health Act.

At 14th July, 1,040 out of 1,148 patients at Starcross and 1,323 out of 1,896 patients at Calderstones were informal. Of these, 14 and 516, respectively, were made informal since 1st November, 1960.

Does not the Minister agree that this is a remarkable transformation, because before the passing of the Act these patients were compulsorily detained but are now, being informal patients, more or less free? Does he not think that there is a need to look into these figures, because it is being said that patients are being reclassified much too early? If that is not true, does he not appreciate what a terrible scandal it was that prior to the Act these people were compulsorily detained?

As the hon. Member knows, both practice and law in this matter have changed, but I think it would help to put the matter in perspective if I were to point out that classification as informal, of which I gave figures in my reply, has been taking place since the beginning of 1958, and it has been progressive over the lash three or four years.

Davyhulme Park Hospital (Death)


asked the Minister of Health if he has considered the recommendation of the jury at the inquest upon Clifford Daly, who died at Davyhulme Park Hospital from heart failure due to high temperature following a heat stroke, that serious thought should be given to installing ventilation equipment in the operating theatres; and whether he will now expedite the capital development of the ancillary service units at this hospitals, including the operating theatres.

The hospital management committee is considering urgently what action is called for.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the answer to the first part of my Question, may I ask him to answer the second part? Is he aware that the hospital management committee has been pressing the regional hospital board for certain improvements in the ancillary services of this hospital for the last twelve years, and that under present plans they are not to be commenced for ten years or completed for sixteen? Will he expedite them?

There is no need for any of the improvements which may be found necessary as a result of this to wait upon other capital expenditure.

That does not answer my Question. Will my right hon. Friend expedite capital expenditure on the hospital improvements which have been awaited for a long time and which, under present plans, are not to be started for ten years?

These will have to take their place in the long-term plan which is under consideration at the moment. I have not arrived at my own decision as to the timing of these improvements.

Admissions, Cornwall


asked the Minister of Health to what extent the admission of Cornish residents to hospitals is being delayed because beds are occupied by visitors to the county who have been injured in road accidents.

I regret that I have no figures which would enable me to answer the hon. Member's Question.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary institute an inquiry? This question was raised at a recent meeting of the West Cornwall Hospital Management Committee, when the county medical officer of health said:

"We are having more casualties over a longer period. They begin to rise earlier each year."
I can assure the hon. Lady that this is not a new problem.

It would take a very considerable amount of time and money to conduct a detailed analysis such as the hon. Member suggests. I am aware of the problem of accidents; it is not peculiar to Cornwall but applies to all holiday resorts, and it is a seasonal problem.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I myself was an inmate of a Cornish hospital for eight months as a result of a road accident in the summer, and would she not agree that many patients in our hospitals are local residents?

Yes, but it is impossible to distinguish the figures. I am glad that my hon. Friend responded to the treatment available for him.

Because of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I propose to take the earliest opportunity of raising the matter on the Adjournment.

New Hospital, Truro


asked the Minister of Health when tenders are to be invited for the new area hospital at Truro; and when work on it will begin.

Will the Minister explain the delay, because at the end of November last he said in this House that the working drawings of the first phase would be completed by the end of December and the bills of quantities would be ready by May of this year? Why is there to be a delay of twelve months in the laying of the foundation stone?

The laying of the foundation stone does not follow immediately upon the completion of the bills of quantities. I am satisfied that this is going ahead so as to enable me to lay the stone next spring.



asked the Minister of Health what reply he has made to the request of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy for an independent inquiry into the salary structure of physiotherapists.

My right hon. Friend has informed the Society that he considers the present negotiating machinery is appropriate for settling the pay and conditions of service of physiotherapists in the National Health Service.

Is it not clear that the physiotherapists do not think so? Is the hon. Lady aware that they have no confidence that this machinery will look at the salary structure afresh in order, for example, to fix the appropriate rate for student teachers in physiotherapy, of whom there is a very acute shortage, leading to a very serious situation in the Health Service?

This negotiating machinery was set up with the agreement of both sides at the inception of the National Health Service. It has served this profession and other comparable professions in the Service. I think that there is a claim in for increases for physiotherapist teachers.

Is the hon. Lady aware that there is growing discontent amongst chartered physiotherapists about their salary scales? Cannot something be done to expedite this matter?

There was an increase in salary effective from 1st January, 1961, of 5 per cent. for this profession and other allied professions.

Is the hon. Lady aware that the increase to which she has referred was negotiated specifically without prejudice to the right of the staff concerned to ask for a re-examination of the negotiating machinery? Does she not recollect that when there was similar discontent among clerical staffs some years ago the Minister set up a Committee under Sir Noel Hall which did a great deal to offset criticism?

I see no reason for assuming that the present machinery is not adequate. I do not think that we could take physiotherapists in isolation, because there are other similar ancillary services in the National Health Service.

Hospital Services (Cost)


asked the Minister of Health if he will state in percentage terms the increased revenue cost of the hospital services in 1960–61 compared with 1955–56, ignoring wage, price and related increases and functions transferred from other departments.

Is not this a rather different picture from the picture given by the right hon. Gentleman at the time of the Health Service debate some months ago? Does he think that an expansion in the Health Service of 2 per cent, per annum is adequate?

The hon. Gentleman falls into the error of equating expansion with increase in expenditure. A good deal of improvement and expansion goes on by way of increased efficiency, so this figure does not represent the full improvement in the Service over the last five years.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed what the Plowden Committee said about the hospital services?

Southmead Hospital, Bristol


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the need for new residential accommodation for medical officers and students at South-mead Hospital, Bristol; what proposals there are for the construction of such accommodation; and when building will begin.

Yes, Sir, The South-Western Regional Hospital Board gives this high priority in its capital programme, but I cannot yet announce a starting date.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the population of the area which this hospital serves has increased very rapidly, which imposes an additional burden on the hospital? Could new accommodation be provided by a centrally financed scheme?

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is, "Yes". The answer to the second part is that the plans for meeting this need will form part of the overall ten-year plan on which I am engaged.