HC Deb 15 April 1948 vol 449 cc1156-7
42. Mr. Platts-Mills

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that widespread anxiety has been aroused by his recent circular to local authorities discouraging any development of health centres at the present time; and, in view of the advantages of the health centre stressed by the Medical Planning Commission in 1942, and the obligation resting on local health authorities under the new National Health Service scheme to provide such centres, whether he will now issue further instructions making it clear that it is not his intention to discourage any initiative in the planning and setting up of new health centres.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)

There is evidently a misunderstanding. I have never wished to discourage health centres, which will be a key feature of the new health service. But I have had to point out the building stringencies of the moment and say that I do not, therefore, expect any widespread programmes yet.

Mr. Platts-Mills

In view of the extent of the misunderstanding that arose over the first circular relating to this matter, and of the immense support there is, particularly amongst doctors, for the idea of group practice, as indeed there is in the rest of the medical world, would the Minister consider issuing a further circular to clarify the situation that has arisen, and also consider encouraging the provision of some health centres in advance of others, where they are particularly needed?

Mr. Bevan

The misconception arises out of the fact that citizens allow their ideas to be determined by headlines in the Press and not by the circulars themselves. If they had read the circulars they would have seen that I encouraged the local authorities to put up their plans.

Colonel Stoddart-Scott

If there is not to be a universal distribution of health centres throughout the country in the next year or two, will the Minister recommend that the weekly contribution should be reduced?

Mr. Bevan

That astonishes me. The weekly contribution bears very small relationship to the total expenditure on the National Health Service, which is largely borne by Exchequer funds.

Dr. Haden Guest

Where a health centre building cannot be established, may I ask whether the Minister would encourage the formation of group practice by medical teams where it is essential in future to have centres?

Mr. Bevan

As my hon. Friend knows, I have all along expressed the opinion that partnerships and grouped general practitioners are desirable features, and they are being encouraged in the new service. I can also assure him that facilities are being given to enable new entrants to act first as assistants.