HC Deb 07 August 1941 vol 373 cc2065-7
5. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in order to assist medical boards in testing men for service in the Army, he will request approved societies to supply the boards with the medical history of each case so as to avoid as far as possible passing those whose medical history makes it obvious that they are physically incapable of making efficient soldiers?

Mr. Bevin

The investigation of previous medical history forms an important part of the medical examination, which includes careful questioning on this matter by the examining doctors. In addition, every man is informed, when called for medical examination, that the medical board will be prepared to give careful consideration to medical evidence regarding any serious illnesses or disabilities from which he has suffered, and he is also asked to complete a questionnaire designed to elicit information as to certain aspects of his previous medical history. I have given careful consideration to the hon. Member's suggestion, but I am advised that it would not supplement the informa- tion already obtained to an extent sufficient to counterbalance the administrative difficulties in the way of its adoption.

Mr. Davies

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that most men cannot give facts about previous illnesses, and if a man was asked to secure his medical history from his approved society, that would surely be very helpful if he presented it to the medical board?

Mr. Bevin

Having administered an approved society, I would not place too much reliance on the medical history that such societies possess.

Dr. Edith Summerskill

Is my right hon. Friend aware that recruits suffering from mental trouble are reluctant to give facts as to past illnesses, and therefore men subject to psychological disturbance are accepted who have eventually to be discharged?

Mr. Bevin

The percentage of people who have had to be discharged is very low. I feel sure that, owing to the care taken in admitting people to the Army, the results have been better than in any previous experience though there have been mistakes, as there must inevitably be when such large numbers have been called up.

Sir Robert Young

Will my right hon. Friend remember that many men hide defects from which they suffer?

Mr. Bevin

The Question asks whether I can get the facts from an approved society, and, quite seriously, I say that, having administered an approved society, the medical evidence in their possession would be no great guide.

12. Mr. James Griffiths

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are taken by the Medical Boards, Armed Forces Act, to prevent men with tendencies to tuberculosis being recruited into the Forces; and whether it is proposed to improve the system of examination, in view of the number of men discharged from the Forces on account of tuberculosis?

Mr. Bevin

Arrangements have been made for notification to the medical boards of particulars of every man of military age whose name appears on the tuberculosis register kept under the Public Health (Tuberculosis) Regulations, 1930 In addition, every man examined is asked to state whether he has ever suffered from tuberculosis or received treatment for tuberculosis or suspected tuberculosis, and careful attention is given to any medical certificates which may be produced. It is generally recognised that incipient or latent pulmonary tuberculosis cannot usually be diagnosed by ordinary clinical examination, but where-over there is reason to suspect tuberculosis the board refers the man for radiological or other special examination ay the tuberculosis officer of the local authority of the area in which he lives. A suggestion that the chest of every recruit should be radiologically examined was fully considered last year by the Medical Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Horder, and the Committee decided that its adoption was impracticable.

Mr. Griffiths

While appreciating my right hon. Friend's reply, may I ask him whether he will give serious consideration to the representations which, I believe, have been made by the authority in Wales responsible for sanitorium treatment, who express grave concern at the increasing number of men coming back from the Armed Forces and going to them for treatment?

Mr. Bevin

I will study the report and, if it is necessary, refer it to Lord Horder's Committee.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the approved societies have a much fuller medical record of these cases?

Mr. Bevin

I do not think so, because these cases are compulsorily notifiable.

Dr. Summerskill

Will my right hon. Friend say why, if it is practicable to X-ray every recruit in America, it is impracticable in this country?

Mr. Bevin

It was found to be impracticable, and I understand that it is a question of equipment and of the requisite personnel to examine the results. That supply is not forthcoming. It was not found practicable at that time to examine every person radiologically.