37. Mr. ROY WILSON
asked the Minister of Health whether, in his proposals for the reform, of the Poor Law and reorganisation of the health services of the country, he contemplates that the voluntary hospitals should or would come under the control of the State or the local authorities?
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Chamberlain)
No, Sir. On the contrary, I regard the preservation of the voluntary hospital system as a matter of essential importance in the health interests of the country. What has been impressed on my mind is the absence as a general rule at present of any systematic arrangements for co-operation in the various areas of the country between the voluntary hospitals and the hospitals and institutions carried on by the local authorities. I have, therefore, suggested that it is advisable that there should be consultation in the various areas with a view to arriving at an agreed plan for institutional provision which would enable each kind of hospital to play its proper part in meeting the ever-increasing need of the people for hospital accommodation. I should anticipate that under such a plan, the position of the voluntary hospitals would he strengthened and not weakened, but I have never contemplated putting any compulsion upon them to come into an arrangement, their participation in which would be a matter for their own determination.
In view of the widespread apprehension in the minds of those responsible for voluntary hospitals in this country, who hold the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the right hon. Gentleman does mean to bring voluntary hospitals in some way under the local authorities, will he be good enough to give the widest publicity possible to the very important statement which he has made in answer to my question?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope the fact that I have made a statement in answer to the question of my hon. Friend will have the effect of giving wide publicity to it.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
Why does the right hon. Gentleman say that the health interests of the country are bound up with the voluntary system?
§ Mr. BARKER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the voluntary hospital at Blaina is almost closing for want of funds, and in these cases in necessitous areas, will his Department relieve the hospitals?
§ Mr. LUNN
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the dreadful financial position of voluntary hospitals in many parts of the country to-day, and the failure of voluntary hospital boards to extend to meet the requirements of the many waiting patients; and will the Government consider giving further funds to the Cave Commission, so that they can further assist voluntary hospitals in their difficulties?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I think a review of the circumstances of voluntary hospitals during the past 12 months will show that they have responded in an astonishing manner to the requirements of the country, and, while at one time it did appear to be impossible for them to meet the need for extension, they are, I am very glad to say, now largely overcoming that difficulty; and not only have they been able to find, in most cases, sufficient money for the maintenance of existing beds, but they have even been able to make very considerable additions.