I do not quite understand what amendment my hon. Friend proposes should be inserted in the Bill. It is competent under Section 49 of the present Act to societies and insurance committees to provide medical attendance as one of the benefits for persons becoming employed contributors over the age of sixty-five. Money was voted in the recent Supplementary Estimates to help societies and committees desiring to provide medical attendance for such persons by a Grant of 2s. 6d. per head; and the Commissioners at the same time issued a circular, of which I am sending a copy to my hon. Friend, stating that this Grant was available and also containing information as to the rates of sickness benefit that could be provided in addition.
§ 50. Mr. CHARLES PRICE
asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether any arrangement has been entered into between the Insurance Commissioners of Scotland and the Scottish Clerks' Association regarding medical benefits, and can he state the terms; if not, is there any prospect of the difficulties being overcome?
The Scottish Insurance Commissioners have had a conference with the representatives of the association, and arranged with them that the association should issue medical tickets to its members. At the same time the Commissioners agreed to suggest to insurance committees that members of the association might, if practicable, be allowed an extension of time for the choice of a doctor; and, so far as they are aware, the members are not experiencing difficulty in obtaining medical benefit. The Commissioners are, however, arranging a further conference with the association within a few days.
§ 51. Mr. TOUCHE
asked why Form Med. 21, for which insured persons were instructed to apply, has been withdrawn?
The form referred to was withdrawn in order to save insured 1351 persons applying for permission to make their own arrangements for medical attendance and treatment from the trouble of filling up this form in addition to another form, containing the particulars required by the insurance committees in dealing with the applications. The necessary information can now be given on a single form.
§ 52. Mr. TOUCHE
asked when it is proposed to take steps to remedy the inadequacy of medical benefit in London?
I am not prepared to endorse the suggestion underlying the hon. Member's question. I may say, however, that the London Insurance Committee have instructed their medical benefit sub-committee to report as to whether the present system of medical benefit in London could be improved, and to submit recommendations.
§ 53. Mr. TOUCHE
asked whether every person who has made application for permission to contract out under the National Insurance Act has received Form 43/IC, and if many of these forms have been returned to the insurance committee for the county of London, or if he has information that doctors are refusing to sign the undertaking in Part II. on the ground that its provisions are objectionable; and will a more acceptable form be substituted?
I am informed by the London Insurance Committee that the answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and with regard to the second part, that between 2,000 and 3,000 of the forms have been returned to the committee. In some cases doctors have declined to sign the undertaking referred to. The sums available for the medical attendance and treatment of insured persons making their own arrangements are the same as those in respect of persons receiving attendance under the panel system; and the effect of the undertaking referred to is to secure that doctors treating them should render the same necessary services as doctors on the panel are required to render under the conditions attached to the payment of the 1352 Parliamentary Grant. I see no reason why any modification in its terms is required.
§ Mr. TOUCHE
Is there any ground for the impression that the terms of that undertaking have been so drawn as to discourage contracting out?
§ 54. Mr. TOUCHE
asked whether a local medical committee for the county of London has been formed and recognised in accordance with the Act; and, if so, how many doctors took part in the selection of the committee?
No local medical committee for the county of London has been recognised by the Insurance Commissioners.
§ Mr. TOUCHE
Does it not arise that no committee is entitled to style itself the local medical committee for the county of London?
§ 55. Mr. TOUCHE
asked whether, in connection with the administration of the National Insurance Act, due consideration has been given to the fact that it is not of advantage, either to the public health or to that of an insured patient, that he should be forced to wait, often for hours, in a grossly overcrowded room with other patients on each visit to the doctor; and if any effective measures are in contemplation to remedy this drawback?
I do not think there is any ground for supposing that the conditions suggested in the hon. Member's question are likely to occur except in rare instances, but if any complaints of this nature are made to an insurance committee, it would be the duty of the insurance committee to take steps to remedy them.
§ 59. Mr. C. BATHURST
asked the Secretary to the Treasury, for the information of insurance committees and chemists on the panel, what sort of information is contemplated under the heading Miscellaneous, on Form Medical 31, intended to be filled up by such chemists in respect of all drugs and appliances prescribed by doctors for insured persons under the National Insurance Act, seeing that such form provides under separate headings for all goods 1353 prescribed up to the value of 1s. and over that value, respectively, and whether in ordinary form or in special form; and whether the use of the above ambiguous expression on the chemists' forms is incumbent upon insurance committees?
Under the heading Miscellaneous it is intended that chemists should include vouchers representing various amounts which cannot conveniently be grouped according to values under any of the other headings, owing to the number of vouchers at any one value being too small to form a separate group. The form referred to is a model form only, and it is open to any committee to adopt any modification which may be approved by the Commission.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that it is most important that, so far as the insurance committees who are spending public money are concerned, that there should be absolute preciseness in these matters?
Yes, it is with a view to securing absolute preciseness that the form has been drawn up in that way.