HC Deb 29 June 1944 vol 401 cc778-80
10. Commander Sir Archibald Southby

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to conditions obtaining at Horton Hospital, Epsom; ant what steps have been taken to improve the catering and feeding arrangements, particularly as regards the military patients under treatment in the hospital.

Mr. Willink

Yes, Sir, and I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for the interest he has taken and the help he has given in this matter. As the answer to the second part of the Question is rather long, I will, with permission, give it after Questions.


I have been giving close attention for some time past to the feeding arrangements, not only at Horton but in E.M.S. hospitals generally. For this purpose the staff of my Department was increased early this year by the appointment of two qualified hospital dieticians to enable a more systematic inspection of hospitals to be made. The inspections show that in general feeding arrangements are good. In the few cases where improvements have been shown to be needed they are being made. Complaints have been received about the feeding at Horton. My officers visited Horton under the new scheme of inspection in February and a further visit was paid in company with officers of the Ministry of Labour and National Service on 30th May. On the second visit the arrangements were found to have been much improved but certain additional steps were decided upon. A catering administrator has been appointed. The Steward, who had given many years of good service and whose health is no longer robust has retired and a new Steward has taken up duty.

Athough the feeding difficulties which had occurred were not found to be due to shortage of staff, the nursing and domestic staff have been augmented to meet certain new responsibilities. Improvements are being made in the equipment. In all these matters I have had the cordial co-operation of the London County Council and I think we may be satisfied that there will be no further cause for complaint.

As my right hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, informed my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) on 15th June, arrangements have been made to enable hospitals with a substantial proportion of Service patients to obtain an additional allowance of meat, if this is shown to be necessary.

Sir A. Southby

May I ask whether it is not the case that, apart from defective organisation in this or any other case, the difficulty in an emergency hospital is that military personnel are given civilian rations, and would it not be possible to arrange for them to have military rations, as they would have in a military hospital?

Mr. Willink

That is, of course, a question for the Minister of Food, but where the main Service population of a hospital are recently wounded, it is really not necessary that there should be Service rations for the whole number—indeed, it was found earlier in the war that it was very difficult to justify military rations for every Service man in hospital in comparison, for example, with injured Civil Defence personnel or other civilians. I think the arrangement which has been made by which the meat, which Servicemen miss particularly, will be increased whenever there is a sufficient number of Servicemen in the hospital, will meet the case.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Is the Minister aware that the difference between Service rations and civilian rations in these hospitals is so very slight, that it would not make all the difference that has been complained of by the Service personnel, who have been patients in the hospital for a long time; and is not antiquity in regard to the administration of this particular hospital causing more trouble than the shortage of rations?

Mr. Willink

I do not think there is antiquity now. It is the extreme difficulty of the arrangements in the hospital, which is now being used for a very much larger number of patients than it was designed to accommodate.