HC Deb 24 June 1948 vol 452 cc1548-51
32. Mr. Randall

asked the Minister of Health how many instances of doctors informing their patients that there is a restriction on drugs which may be ordered for free supply for the proper treatment of patients under the new Health Service have been brought to his attention; what steps he has taken in the matter; and what action is open to patients so informed by their doctors.

33. Mrs. Leah Manning

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that certain doctors are urging patients who go to them to be placed on their register to remain as private patients on the grounds that they will in this event receive better attention and be entitled to certain drugs which they could not have as National Health patients; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent such action.

Mr. Bevan

I trust there have not been many such cases, and I am confident that doctors will not attempt to discriminate between those who use the service and those who do not. Moreover, I. welcome this opportunity to make it clear that patients are entitled under the new Health Service without restriction to every kind of drug and appliance necessary for their treatment. Indeed, any doctor who failed to prescribe these drugs would be breaking his terms of service. I hope this statement will receive the widest possible publicity.

Mr. Randall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that two such cases as are indicated in my Question have been brought to my attention, and I now propose to pass them on to my right hon. Friend? Will he give an assurance that he will make the fullest inquiry? Furthermore, will he answer the latter part of the Question in which I ask what appropriate steps can the patients take when a doctor makes this statement?

Mr. Bevan

The course open to the patient is to make a complaint to the local executive council and that council will investigate the complaint. There is machinery under the Act to deal with this matter.

Mrs. Manning

In view of the fact that I have also sent two cases to my right hon. Friend, and as this is a matter which is causing great anxiety among people of all parties and in many classes who have looked forward to the fact that they would not have to be burdened with doctors' bills in the future, can my right hon. Friend tell us what steps he himself will take to end this rather disgraceful action on the part of some doctors?

Mr. Bevan

All I can do is to answer the Questions here, to call general attention to the facts and to ask the public to note what is being said here and not to listen to what certain doctors, who have been acting well below the ethical standards of the profession, have said.

Colonel Stoddart-Scott

Will the Minister assure the House that doctors will not be surcharged for supplying certain drugs as they are at the present moment under the panel system?

Mr. Bevan

There are regulations that concern themselves with the nature of the drugs to be prescribed. There are certain things prescribed as drugs which are not drugs, champagne, for example.

Dr. Haden Guest

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the British Medical Association take the strongest view of the improper conduct which a few doctors have been following, as suggested in these Questions, and that they are taking action to bring this to the attention of the whole profession? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that, since the B.M.A. are now co-operating in order to give the best possible service under the slogan of Dr. Dain that "Only the best is good enough," it is desirable that their help in this matter should be welcomed by the Minister?

Mr. Bevan

I have already welcomed the help that has been given by Dr. Dain, especially in a letter which he wrote recently to "The Times." I am happy to think that the vast majority of the medical profession frown disapprovingly upon these practices.

43. Miss Bacon

asked the Minister of Health under what authority a doctor refuses to take a person on his list, and intimates that he is prepared to take the same person as a paying patient.

Mr. Bevan

Such conduct is quite unethical, and I confidently expect that the profession will express the strongest disapproval of it.

Miss Bacon

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is happening, and that this practice, in conjunction with the practice described in Questions Nos. 32 and 33, gives point to the criticism made by some hon. Members on this side of the House on the Second Reading of the Bill, namely, that to allow a doctor in a public practice also to undertake a private practice is a means whereby public confidence in the whole scheme can be destroyed?

Mr. Bevan

I am hoping that as we gain cumulative experience, this practice will disappear. I am sure that it is believed in only by a very small minority of the medical profession and I believe that as experience develops this alleged dichotomy in that service will be prevented. But as I have said in the answer to the Question, such conduct is entirely unethical, and ought to receive the disapproval of the House and the country.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Is there any specific remedy, when, as in a case I know myself, a doctor refuses to take a patient, on the grounds that the patient is in a position to pay, and therefore will not be accepted on the general list?

Mr. Bevan

If there are patients who are informed of that they can, of course, go to another doctor. If there are patients at the end of the process who are without a doctor they may be assigned to one.

Mrs. Ridealgh

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to take action at a later date in cases where a doctor is prepared to take a Husband and wife, but refuses to take the children unless they pay private fees for the children.

Mr. Bevan

There have been one or two instances where a doctor has taken a husband and wife and refused to take the children I believe this also is frowned upon by the medical profession and only serves to illumine how necessary it is to organise this profession into a service for the nation as a whole in order to raise its standards of conduct.

Dr. Segal

Will not the Minister enlist the active co-operation of these patients in reporting such instances to the proper authority?

Mr. Bevan

They are obviously making their complaints known now, otherwise we should not have heard about them.

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