HC Deb 27 April 1911 vol 24 cc1976-8

asked whether the Under-Secretary's attention has been called to the case of suicide of Sergeant Stokes, R.A.M.C., dispenser at Parkhurst Barracks; and, taking into consideration the fact that complaints have already been made on account of the shortage in the medical staff there, he will cause an inquiry to be made into the circumstances?


asked (1) if the hon. Gentleman can state how many officers and men are in charge of the Royal Military Hospital, Parkhurst, and what is the average number of patients undergoing treatment; whether the officer commanding the medical staff at Parkhurst has frequently reported officially on the paucity of his staff; if so, why no additions have been made; (2) whether the average hours of duty for non-commissioned officers at the Royal Military Hospital, Parkhurst, are from seven in the morning until eleven at night; whether during the past nine months two sergeants belonging to this hospital have committed suicide; and whether the Under-Secretary is aware that the jury returned a verdict that the last suicide was caused by ill-health and long hours of duty?


asked whether the Under-Secretary's attention had been called to the inquest held at Wroxall, Isle of Wight, on 24th April, 1911, on Sergeant Ethelbert Robert Stokes, R.A.M.C, the dispenser at Parkhurst barracks, and the suggestion of the jury that representations should be made to the War Office with a view to an inquiry being instituted regarding the conditions of employment of the medical staff at Parkhurst; whether this is the second case of suicide at Parkhurst within twelve months traceable to overwork; whether any report was made by the colonel that he was under-staffed; and, if so, when such report was received, and what action was taken thereon?


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman's attention had been called to an inquest on Sergeant E.R. Stokes, R.A.M.C, dispenser at the military hospital, Parkhurst, on 24th April, when the jury's verdict was suicide while of unsound mind, the result of prolonged hours of duty; whether he is aware that Colonel Donegan, the chief of Parkhurst medical staff, stated that he had repeatedly reported the paucity of his staff without effect, and other evidence was given that men did regular duty from 7 a.m. till 11 p.m. daily; whether this is the second suicide of a hospital sergeant within nine months; and what action, if any, he proposes to take to prevent these occurrences?


asked whether the Under-Secretary's attention had been called to the evidence given at an inquest held at Wroxall, Isle of Wight, on Monday last, upon the body of Sergeant Stokes, R.A.M.C, whose death was found to be due to continued overwork; whether Lieutenant-Colonel Donegan had previously reported his staff to be inadequate; whether he was aware that two non-commissioned officers, who also gave evidence, stated that their hours of duty were from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. for seven days per week; whether he was aware that this was the second suicide in connection with the medical staff at Parkhurst in twelve months; and whether he proposes to take immediate action in securing the necessary addition to the staff which shall ensure a more reasonable period of hours of duty?


I will reply at the same time to these questions, all on the same subject. No information on this case beyond what has appeared in the public Press has yet reached the War Office, but orders have already been issued to the general officer commanding-in-chief for a searching inquiry. There was a suicide at Parkhurst on 29th August last, which was clearly a case of insanity, and was not apparently due in any way to overwork. The hospital is equipped for twenty-five beds, with a personnel of one officer and eight non-commissioned officers and men. The average constantly sick for the last six months was from nine to ten, and during March was fifteen; but in the latter month the ailments were mostly slight. No demand for an increase of personnel for this station has reached the War Office.


Is it not the fact that in his sworn testimony the commanding officer gave evidence to the effect that he had made repeated official applications for extra assistance and extra staff, and does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the commanding officer was committing perjury when he gave that evidence?


In light of the fact that no complaint whatever has reached the War Office, the matter is difficult to understand, and this is why we are making a full inquiry into it.