asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what arrangements are made by regional hospital boards to ensure that no maternity patient is taken to hospital by an unaccompanied ambulance driver.
The normal practice is that, where a patient has to travel to a hospital by ambulance and the doctor thinks it necessary for her to be accompanied by a midwife, he arranges for either the district midwife or a midwife from the hospital to go with her.
Is it not the case that all maternity patients going to hospital should be accompanied? Have there not been examples of patients with a fair degree of urgency being unaccompanied? Will the Secretary of State make full inquiries and press upon the regional board the need for a midwife to accompany the driver?
This is a matter which is best left to the discretion of the people immediately concerned. It would be wasteful of badly needed skilled staff to send somebody on every occasion if it was quite unnecessary to do so.
Is the Secretary of State aware that, time after time, regional hospital boards apparently do not take the proper precautions to ensure that ambulance drivers are accompanied? In these circumstances, is it not his duty to intervene?
If I were persuaded that some authorities were not fulfilling their duty properly, certainly I would take steps to bring the matter to their attention. Perhaps the hon. Lady will send me details if she has any cases in mind.
In view of the number of complaints made recently about the service, will the Secretary of State look at the whole matter once again to make sure that at least certain boards are not slipping up with regard to the ambulance service?
I will certainly look at the matter. It would be helpful if any further cases which need examination were brought to my attention.