HC Deb 15 April 1937 vol 322 cc1269-71

It shall be lawful for a local authority, in consultation with the local organisation of registered medical practitioners as referred to in Sub-section (5) of Section one of this Act, to publish annually a panel of registered medical practitioners for the purposes of Section twenty-two of the Midwives (Scotland) Act, 1915, such panel to consist of registered medical practitioners regularly practising midwifery and to be made available to all certified midwives practising within the area of the local authority.—[Mr. Leonard.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.53 p.m.

Mr. Leonard

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The proposed new Clause differs from the one which appeared on the Paper in Committee, when I regret I was not able to be present, but which I noted from the report had been well supported by my colleagues. The intention of these efforts is really to give a lead to local authorities. There is laid on local authorities a responsibility to provide more domiciliary services to perform the functions of midwifery than has been the case. Under the regulations midwives must in certain circumstances perforce bring in a medical practitioner, and the practitioner must have gained some proficiency in the practice of midwifery. It would have been my duty to present the statistics gathered by the City of Glasgow, but in view of the fact that we are endeavouring to save time and get the discussion of these Bills over expeditiously, I will take the record contained in the Committee proceedings as being sufficient for the purpose. Thirty-three per cent. of the total doctors may be a large number to confine to a special list, but these are occasions of considerable importance and I suggest there is some reason in putting forward the new Clause. I noted, from reading the Committee proceedings, that it was suggested the scheme would not function properly unless a penalty were applied. I feel that a penalty is not needed. I have been informed through what are called the usual channels that the Minister himself may have something to say on that point.

8.2 p.m.

Mr. Mathers

I second the new Clause which simply seeks to put into the hands of practising midwives a list of medical practitioners who will be able effectively to assist them in any emergency that they may encounter. When an emergency does arise in a case of childbirth, it is obvious that it is very important to bring the necessary assistance to the midwife quickly. It would be unwise to leave the midwife uncertain over a wide list of doctors that she might find, say, in the telephone directory—uncertain as to which doctor she might appeal to as having the necessary degrees or qualifications. It is in order to ensure that a body of properly qualified medical practitioners should be available to the midwives that this Clause is put forward as a voluntary matter without any penalty.

8.4 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

I have every sympathy with the object of the new Clause and expressed myself in that sense in the Committee stage. I then promised to give my full attention to it pending the present stage of the Measure. We discussed the matter, I think, a little at cross-purposes. This new Clause, as it says itself, would apply only to Section 22 of the Midwives (Scotland) Act, 1915. In the schemes under this Bill there will be full provision for the midwives to know where the practitioners and, indeed, the specialists are. All this will be provided for in the schemes. That is, perhaps, what hon. Members had in mind when they said they had been informed that I would make some statement. Our impression is that the scheme will cover 80 per cent. of the confinements in Scotland. The other 20 per cent. will be, not the poor people, but the well-to-do, who have their own doctors and are in touch with the obstetric specialist as well. I hope that that assurance will make it possible for hon. Members opposite not to press the proposed new Clause. It will not be left to the midwives to pick a doctor from a casual list of practitioners which may or may riot be issued by the local authorities. It will be the duty of the midwife to be in touch and to work with the woman's own medical attendant, and, if she did not know where the medical attendant was, or where in his absence some other practitioner could be found, then she would be in fault under the new schemes. I hope that hon. Members opposite will consider that their purpose will be achieved in the schemes under Clause 1 and will not seek to press this proposed new Clause of theirs which, as I have said, relates only to cases coming under a provision which I believe the Bill will put out of date.

Mr. Leonard

A misunderstanding may have arisen, but I am indebted to the Secretary of State for the explanation which he has given, and in view of this I beg leave, with the permission of my colleagues, to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.