HC Deb 25 April 1950 vol 474 cc757-60
15. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that vaccinations are being carried out on a wide scale throughout Scotland, but that medical practitioners have not yet received any payment for this work, nor any indication of what payment may be offered; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. McNeil

I am indebted to all medical practitioners who co-operated so zealously in vaccinating over the last few weeks. I am bound to point out, however, that vaccination is considered to be a normal part of good general practice, and so for general practitioners inside the National Health Service no special payment for these services is due. Negotiations, however, are in progress between the British Medical Association and the local authority associations to secure agreement on a fee to be payable by the authorities for reports from practitioners giving particulars of vaccinations and immunisations carried out

17. Mr. William Reid

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the recent outbreak of smallpox in Glasgow originating in a fever hospital, he is satisfied with the present arrangements for protecting nursing staffs from the risk of contracting smallpox, and that the hospital boards are taking the necessary steps.

Mr. McNeil

It is, of course, the general rule that the staffs of smallpox hospital units should be drawn entirely from persons protected by vaccination. While emphasising the desirability of vaccinations for staffs employed at fever hospitals or otherwise liable to come into contact with smallpox, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and I do not feel justified under present circumstances in making vaccination an obligatory condition of service.

Sir Herbert Williams

Why not?

Mr. McNeil

We are, however, reminding hospital and other authorities of the need to ensure that vaccination is offered to all persons on recruitment to such staffs, and re-vaccination offered periodically to all persons so employed.

Mr. Reid

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of introducing regulations which will ensure that no nurse who has not been vaccinated will be permitted to treat a patient suffering from smallpox?

Mr. McNeil

I have already pointed out that the superintendent and staff of hospitals have duties which are normally discharged in that fashion. While I will look at the subject again, I doubt if have the power so to order.

Sir H. Williams

As there is not much business for the Session, why not get the power?

18. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he proposes to make any investigation into the circumstances in which members of the nursing staff of the Glasgow Isolation Hospital contracted smallpox; and when each of them was last vaccinated.

Mr. McNeil

The patient who was the primary source of infection was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and the eight nurses who contracted smallpox were direct contacts of this patient. From investigations which I have already put in hand, I understand that of the three nurses who died none had been successfully vaccinated. The other five, all of whom are recovering, had been vaccinated more than once, the last occasion being some years ago.

Mr. Gammans

When almost every country in the world insists upon vaccination before people are allowed to land, is it not quite fantastic that young women should be allowed to work in an isolation hospital with all the risks of nursing smallpox patients without our insisting that they should be vaccinated, too?

Mr. McNeil

Of course, there are two points to be made. First of all, these nurses did not know—the diagnosis had been thoroughly made—that the patient they were nursing in the first stage was a smallpox contact.

Mr. Ganunans

Have we to wait until three women die before we bring in a regulation which every other country in the world insists on?

Mr. McNeil

If I am to follow the logic of the hon. Gentleman—I understand his concern and I do not want to be thought hostile—I am being asked to insist that every nurse nursing any patient must be vaccinated. We are having difficulty in recruiting nurses, and it would seem to me at any rate not obvious that we should impose on nurses a condition which we do not impose on the rest of the community.

Sir Ian Fraser

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the people who died or caught smallpox on this occasion were vaccinated?

Mr. McNeil

I do not think I can add to the answer which I have given.

30. Sir J. Lucas

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps are taken in the fever hospitals under his control to see if vaccinations for smallpox are successful or not.

Mr. McNeil

The normal procedure is that the doctor who has performed the vaccination inspects the result and if the vaccination has not been successful he repeats it. Records are kept of all vaccinations and re-vaccinations and their results so that the medical superintendents of the hospitals may have current information of the state of protection of their staffs. I am, however, reminding hospitals and local authorities of their appropriate responsibilities.

Sir J. Lucas

In view of the fact that not one of the nurses who died had been successfully vaccinated, surely they should at least have been warned and steps taken to see that they were properly vaccinated?

Mr. McNeil

I have no reason to believe that well-trained professional nurses have any doubts on this subject.