HC Deb 12 March 1913 vol 50 cc233-4

asked the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to the report of an inquest on a child named James Higgins, aged six, which stated that the father of the child applied at the Bethnal Green workhouse infirmary at 5.15 a.m. for a doctor, and the porter gave him the address of a relieving officer, at whose house the father knocked, but was unable to make the relieving officer hear; that he went back to the infirmary, and was given the address of another relieving officer; whether there was a doctor residing at the infirmary, and, if so, why did he not go; is he aware that the coroner's jury suggested that applicants for a doctor, under the Bethnal Green Board of Guardians, should be given a proper form, with his address, so as to avoid wasting time in looking after a relieving officer, and will he see that this recommendation is carried out in its entirety; and will he state to whom have the powers of overseers (under Section 54 of the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834) to give temporary relief in cases of sudden and urgent necessity been transferred in the case of the Bethnal Green Union?


My attention had been called to this case, and I made inquiries in regard to it. The guardians have forwarded to me a report as to the circumstances, which I regret to find are substantially as stated, and they have submitted a scheme for securing prompt attention to urgent cases requiring medical relief at night. The resident medical staff are fully occupied with their duties at the infirmary, and could not in ordinary circumstances be expected to attend cases outside. But I am of opinion that in the circumstances of the present case the applicant might properly have been referred direct to the district medical officer, with an explanatory note, and I am so informing the guardians. Apart from the Metropolitan borough councils, I am not aware that any municipal authority has the powers of overseers with respect to the giving of poor relief. The powers in question are extremely limited, as will be seen from Section 54 of the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834, and it may be doubted whether, in the Metropolis, these powers could be practically utilised.