HC Deb 25 February 1926 vol 192 cc702-4
74. Mr. VIANT

asked the Minister of Health if he has received a deputation of qualified opticians and has he received their observations in regard to the administration of optical benefits under the National Health Insurance Act?


Before the commencement of the new schemes of ophthalmic benefit in July last, representations from bodies of opticians were made both to my right hon. Friend and to the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance. My right hon. Friend has not since received any deputation or general observations from them with regard to the administration of the schemes, but is arranging to receive a deputation at an early date.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is growing dissatisfaction in connection with the administration of these benefits, and, in view of this, will he look into the subject?


I am not aware of that, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the National Health Insurance Commission's Report is expected shortly, and no doubt it will deal with this matter.

75 and 76. Mr. VIANT

asked the Minister of Health (1), if he is aware that; the proportion of refraction cases referred by some panel practitioners to ophthalmic surgeons is extraordinarily high, whilst the number so, referred by other panel practitioners is exceedingly low; and whether he will issue instructions to such practitioners' which will ensure greater uniformity;

(2) if he is aware that many cases of refraction, where no ocular disease exists, are being referred to ophthalmic surgeons, thereby seriously depleting the surplus funds of approved societies unnecessarily; and if he will make Regulations limiting the cases in which reference to ophthalmic surgeons is permitted?


It is no part of the duty of an insurance practitioner to refer applicants for ophthalmic benefit to ophthalmic surgeons, but, where the practitioner is of opinion that a patient is in need of ophthalmic treatment or optical appliances, he gives him, if desired, a written recommendation to be forwarded to his approved society. It then rests with the society to decide whether the application for ophthalmic benefit is to be granted, and, if so, whether the payment that they will make is to cover the cost of examination or treatment by an ophthalmic surgeon. I know of no good reason for seeking to limit the discretion of societies in the manner suggested, and, in any event, I have at present no power to make Regulations for such a purpose.

Colonel DAY

Will the hon. Gentleman seek those powers, which are so necessary?


No, Sir; I have just stated that it is better, at any rate at present, to keep the matter in the discretion of the approved societies.


Does not the hon. Gentleman know that the approved societies have no power to act in the way he suggests, and, in view of the fact that the Ministry of Health has no power to deal with this difficulty, will he seek powers to deal with it?


I am sorry I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. He, of course, has a great deal of knowledge of this matter, but we are certainly advised that the approved societies themselves can come to a determination on the matter, and they are constantly doing so.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the State auditors—the auditors of the Department—refuse to sanction payment in these cases unless the medical certificate is there in the first place, and that the approved society has no discretion in the matter?


Are we to understand that it is the approved society who decide that the ophthalmic surgeon shall be consulted, or is it the doctor in charge of the case?


I think it is generally done by consultation between the approved society and the doctor on the panel.