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Kidney Machines

Volume 951: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1978

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12.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a further statement about the withdrawal of the attendance allowance from patients using kidney machines.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a further statement about the withdrawal of the attendance allowance from patients using kidney machines.

An application for leave to appeal has now been made to the National Insurance Commissioner and I am awaiting the outcome.

Does the Minister agree that the loss of attendance allowance leads to a generally less effective use of dialysis units? Would it not be better to cut across the nonsensical situation whereby everything is stored pending the results of the appeal to the National Insurance Commissioner, and go for both shorter dialysis periods and the attendance allowance?

I cannot add to my original reply, except to say that whatever the National Insurance Commissioner's decision may be, we shall need to consider the implications most carefully. I readily undertake to do this. It would be quite wrong for me to reach any conclusion now, in anticipation of the Commissioner's decision. It is not an easy matter, since dialysis patients are only one of the groups to whom the conditions for attendance allowance must be applied.

Does the Minister admit that it is unacceptable if dialysis patients lose the attendance allowance without any improvement in their condition? What is he doing to try to speed up the decision of the National Insurance Commissioner?

I am sure that the National Insurance Commissioner is well aware of the interest in the case which has now been referred to him, and that there will be no undue delay in reaching a decision. However, as I have said, I cannot at this time anticipate the decision, and it would be quite wrong of me to start speculating about what should be done in future on any decision or on whether further action might be necessary.

I understand that the oral hearing before the Commissioner, involving my constituent, is to take place in a few weeks' time. Will the Minister give an undertaking that the representations made by the Department at that hearing will be of benevolent neutrality?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's considerable interest in this matter, as it is his constituent who has appealed. However, I cannot speak today on the matter of evidence. As to speeding up proceedings, I must emphasise the independence of the adjudicating authorities, including the National Insurance Commissioner.

Since we understand that this decision is unlikely to be announced until the autumn, could the Minister not persuade the Government to accept the Bill brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), which would deal with this expeditiously and make the payment of the attendance allowance to these people?

It would be wrong to attempt to change the law before we are told by the National Insurance Commissioner what the law, in his view, means. I have no knowledge that there is likely to be a delay until November. My right hon. Friend has said that he expects the case to be heard in a few weeks' time.