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Emergency Services (North-West London)

Volume 951: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the scope and provision of emergency medical services and casualty departments in North West London.

The number of general practitioners in North-West London is generally adequate. Many of them rely for out-of-hours emergency cover on deputising services, which are now subject to the code of practice issued by my Department in April. Responsibility for the provision of accident and emergency departments rests with the health authorities concerned, subject to broad guidelines issued by my Department, and I have no reason to believe that the service for this in North-West London is inadequate. If the hon. Member has a particular case in mind I will investigate it if he will write to me.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I shall send him details of some cases. In view of the continuing staff shortage on the casualty side in the whole area, is the Minister satisfied that there will be no further partial or complete closures of casualty departments for the rest of this year?

Partial or complete closures of casualty services take place from time to time throughout the Health Service. When a hospital's beds become full, casualties are directed to another hospital. This is part of the normal process, subject to arrangements made between hospitals for the transfer of cases. Therefore, I cannot give the undertaking that the hon. Member seeks.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are severe problems throughout London in this respect? Did he see the recent television programme about King's College Hospital and the problems there? If so, what does he intend to do about the problems in his and my area?

There are, of course, occasional shortages of theatre staff, particularly theatre nurses. I did see the television programme and I am due to visit King's College Hospital in the not-too-distant future, so I shall look at the problem.

Will my right hon. Friend look again at the North-West London area's casualty departments—especially those in Willesden? Is he aware that there has been a rationalisation, which has gone much too far? Will he check what has been done in that area?

I take note of my hon. Friend's remarks on that matter. I know that he has a very deep concern for hospital services in his area, and I shall certainly check what has been done.