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Volume 649: debated on Monday 13 November 1961

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Medical Staffing (Report)


asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in establishing the review machinery to advise on hospital medical staffing.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has completed his discussions with the medical profession on the Report of tile Platt Working Party on Hospital Medical Staffing; whether he has yet asked hospital authorities to review their consultant establishments, as recommended by the Report; when he will announce his decisions on the Report; and if he will make a statement.

Following the acceptance of the Platt Report announced in my reply to my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) on 9th November, the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will shortly be issuing circulars to boards for the purpose of establishing the review machinery and implementing the Working Party's other recommendations.

Whilst thanking the Minister for at last getting on with the job after twelve months' delay since the publication of the Platt Report, may I ask him whether he is aware that there is a considerable amount of anxiety among time-expired registrars and S.H.M.O.s about this, and will he do all he can to put them out of their present anxiety?

I am anxious to get on with this as fast as possible, but I have only just received the profession's agreement to the Report.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say another word about the nature of the review machinery? is it to be entirely within the regional boards themselves, or is it to be done by a national body imposed from outside on the regional boards? In short, are the boards to do their own reviewing, or are they to have it done for them?

There is a regional board stage, although there will be a national review of the results of the regional boards review. I will give the hon. Gentleman particulars as soon as the machinery is settled, which I hope it shortly will be, with the profession.

In order to speed up the machinery, are boards of governors to be asked to submit their reports sectionally according to individual occupations, or are they to await a general review before submitting their reports to the regional boards?

Regional Appeals Committee


asked the Minister of Health to what extent, under his regulations, a decision of a regional appeals committee can be reversed by a recommendation subsequently submitted by staff inspectors to a group hospital committee.

Not at all.

Is the hon. Lady aware that some staff inspectors have recommended the down-grading of posts after up-grading has been passed by the regional appeals committee? Is this not a grave interference with the ordinary arbitration machinery, and does it not amount to an undermining of the competence of staffs in the Ministry's machinery?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is not correct in saying that down-grading was recommended. The inspectors may have recommended, in a particular case, that there should be no change while the present holder has that post but that the question of grading should be reconsidered when a new appointment has to be made.

Is that not tantamount to the same thing—if a recommendation has been passed by the regional appeals committee and a staff inspector considers that at the end of the incumbency of that occupant this post should be down-graded, is not this overriding the opinion of the regional appeals committee?

No, Sir. An appeal relates to that man and the work he is doing. While he occupies that post he enjoys what grading has been agreed by the appeals committee.

Maternity Beds, Middlesex


asked the Minister of Health what immediate action he proposes to take with regard to the shortage of maternity beds in hospitals in Middlesex.

Arrangements have been made for better selection of hospital cases and reciprocal help between hospitals.

Is the hon. Lady aware that it is still impossible for many mothers having their first babies—some of them with bad home conditions or on medical grounds—to get into hospital and that at Perivale hospital, if admitted, they are liable to be sent home after 48 hours?

I am aware that there is great pressure for maternity beds in Middlesex, but 74 per cent. of the confinements take place in hospital, which is well above the Cranbrook recommendations. We hope that with better selection of cases for admission to hospital, some of the pressure will be relieved.

New Hospital, Huddersfield


asked the Minister of Health when he expects the building of the new hospital at Lindley, Huddersfield, to be completed.

Is the hon. Lady aware that Huddersfield has been waiting a long time for this hospital and that there is a real need for it? Can she give an assurance that the recent restrictive measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not in any way affect the completion of this building?

Work is proceeding on this hospital and, if all goes well, we hope that the first phase will be completed by the end of 1962. It is our intention that the second and final phase shall be started before the first phase is finished; in other words, that it shall go on continuously.

Broadcasts (Football Matches)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the present system of broadcasting football matches to patients in hospitals may be discontinued; and if he will consult with the Postmaster-General to ensure that this service to patients is continued.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answers given by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General on 6th and 7th November.

Is the hon. Lady satisfied with the ridiculous reply that was given? Is she not prepared in the Ministry of Health at least to push the Postmaster-General into providing something which is beneficial for the health of those in hospital? Why on earth does not her Ministry wake up to the fact that if she accepts without protest what the other Ministries are saying she will be in trouble?

It is a service which is essentially for voluntary effort, and, in fact, a great contribution has been made, as I well know, by the Leagues of Friends and the free moneys of hospitals. My right hon. Friend has already said that the increased charges will be reduced by about one-half.

Is the hon. Lady not aware that this matter, which some of us raised several weeks ago, has only had the result that the Ministers concerned have fixed a figure far above that which pertained last July, and that all they have done is to stop squeezing the service quite as badly as they were going to do?

The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to comment on the work of another Department. I know something about this service because I had a hand myself in establishing the pioneer venture in Birmingham. I know it is a good service, and I am satisfied that it can continue, particularly with the voluntary help that is forthcoming.