HC Deb 21 February 1876 vol 227 cc558-9

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been drawn to the statement in Dr. Ballard's Report to the Local Government Board, bearing date August 1872, that the statistics of the cause of death are seriously vitiated by the registrars receiving information as to the cause of death from unqualified practitioners; that of 196 persons dying of epidemic diseases in the sub-district of Tunstall (Staffordshire Potteries), 86 had been attended by unqualified practitioners, who gave certificates of death, a considerable number of the deaths recorded from "fever" being really due, in the opinion of Dr. Ballard, to scarlet fever; whether his attention has also been drawn to the similar statement in Dr. Ballard's Report to the Local Government Board, dated September 1875, on the sanitary condition of the registration sub-district of Oldbury, that of 511 deaths from epidemic diseases in five years, 221 were certified, as to the cause of death, by unqualified practitioners; and, whether the regulations of the Home Office allow the practice on the part of registrars of entering causes of death from certificates of unqualified persons, and of registering deaths so certified, without the authority of the coroner of the district; if not (the rule being in Judicial and Government offices to recognise registered practitioners alone for legal and formal purposes as qualified practitioners), under whose authority do the registrars act, and to what extent is this practice pursued; and is the Home Office prepared to interfere and put a stop to a practice not only misleading but dangerous?


I had occasion to consider the questions raised by the hon. and learned Member when engaged ill preparing and passing through Parliament the Registration Act of 1874. It is true that in reporting on the sanitary condition of Tunstall in 1872 Dr. Ballard complained that the statistical results of the register were rendered unreliable, partly from the absence of certificate sand partly because the persons whose deaths were the subject-matter of his inquiry were attended by unqualified persons. His Report as to Oldbury in 1875 was also to the effect quoted; but it is not strictly accurate to make use of the word "certificate" in reference to these entries. There is no certificate of death recognized by the Registration Act except that of a registered medical practitioner. Causes of death where there is no such certificate are registered in accordance with instructions issued by the Registrar General, and there are many cases of death where there is no certificate, and in respect of which there would be no ground for application to the Coroner. The regulations are as follow:— Unregistered Practitioners.—Any formal certificate or written statement of the cause of death furnished by an unregistered assistant of a registered practitioner, or by a qualified but unregistered practitioner, or by an irregular practitioner—ex. gr., 'bone-setter, "herbalist,' &c.—and produced to the Registrar, must be regarded by him simply as part of the information tendered by the informant of the death, "who must take the responsibility of adopting the statement of the cause of death so furnished. In such cases nothing beyond the cause of death must be entered in Column 6, no reference whatever being made to the fact that the information was obtained from any formal or written document, and the name of person signing such document must on no account be recorded in the register. It must be observed that Parliament has only insisted on a "certificate" in cases where a registered medical practitioner has been in attendance, and that there is no law prohibiting the employment of unregistered practitioners.