HC Deb 20 January 1949 vol 460 cc318-9
28. Mr. Ronald Chamberlain

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will take steps to increase the supply of X-ray film available to hospitals, in view of the increased demand coupled with decreased supplies for home consumption.

Mr. H. Wilson

Supplies of X-ray film to the home market have been increasing, but not enough to meet the increased demand since the war, and especially in the last six months. Manufacturers have been doing all that they can to increase production, and after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, I am asking them to supply a larger proportion of their output to the home market. There is, however, a shortage of X-ray film, not only here but throughout the world, and my right hon. Friend and I would make an urgent appeal to doctors, hospitals and all others who use it to exercise the utmost economy.

Mr. Chamberlain

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him if he would bear in mind that hospitals are facing a most serious situation in this respect, and that the Middlesex Hospital, in which I am particularly interested, is now working on one week's supply, whereas a year ago it had a three months' stock, and that is a serious position?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir, but since a year ago the consumption of this material has increased by over 30 per cent.

Mr. Chamberlain

Yes, but not to that extent.

Mr. Peter Thorneycroft

Is it not a fact that one of the principal reasons for this shortage, which never occurred before, is the virtual elimination of X-ray engineers and the chaos on the distribution side which has been created by the Government's own action?

Mr. Wilson

No, Sir. The principal reason for the shortage is that in spite of increased production the consumption and use of it has increased so very much.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Would the right hon. Gentleman further admit that the amount of money obtained for this film abroad is far greater than the Ministry of Health in this country is prepared to pay and that that is very largely why there is such a great shortage?

Mr. Wilson

No, Sir. The level of exports, which has continued until recently, was the result of the efforts of the manufacturers to export as much as possible. Now we have asked them to cut down exports to meet the home demand.