HC Deb 29 May 1951 vol 488 cc11-4
17. Mr. Peter Thorneycroft

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his attention has been called to the fact that, although Berwick county has six midwives trained in the use of analgesics, they are neither in possession of a gas and air machine nor have they placed any order for one; and what action he pro poses to take in the matter.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNeil)

There were only 24 domiciliary births in this county in 1950 at which the doctor was not present, and therefore other forms of analgesia could be used in the majority of births. My Department has arranged further discussions with the county council in order to expedite the training of the midwives and a supply of gas and air machines for those already trained.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer does not coincide with the figures that he has already given me? If he will look, he will see that in quite half the cases in which doctors were engaged they were not present at the birth. In all those cases the women were left to suffer without any form of analgesia. What action does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take to see that this form of suffering is relieved?

Mr. McNeil

Either the hon. Gentleman has not carefully studied the figures I have given him or has mixed up two cases about which he has written to me. There were only 24 cases in this county in which a doctor was not present at the moment of confinement.

18. Mr. Peter Thorneycroft

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his attention has been called to the fact that in the burgh of Coatbridge during 1950 there was no case of domiciliary confinement in which gas and air was ad ministered by a midwife; and what action he proposes to take in this matter.

Mr. McNeil

I regret to say that so far I have persuaded the town council to provide only one machine for the administration by midwives of gas and air analgesia in domiciliary confinements. I have, however, arranged for further discussions with the town council to expedite improvements.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that it is quite useless training midwives in the administration of gas and air analgesia if the local health authority does not take the trouble even to order the machines? Since the Scottish Office have accepted full responsibility for this state of affairs, will the right hon. Gentleman take some energetic steps or have some inquiry made about what is going on in this area?

Mr. McNeil

I am not unsympathetic with the hon. Member's anxiety, but he must not jump to the unwarranted conclusion that because gas and air machines are not there no other method of analgesia is being used.

Mrs. Jean Mann

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most of the confinements in Coatbridge are in the charge of a doctor, and that where a doctor is not present the midwives in Coatbridge do not use the outmoded gas and air machines? They are now permitted to use trilene and pethedine. Will my right hon. Friend reserve the gas and air for Members opposite with or without mid-wives?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in only one-fifth of the cases in which a doctor was engaged was that doctor present at any moment during the confinement, and that in not a single case in Coatbridge during 1950, according to the figures provided by the right hon. Gentleman's own Department, was gas and air analgesia or pethedine administered at all?

Mr. McNeil

The hon. Gentleman is correct if he means that there was a considerable number of cases, in fact 520, in the year in which a doctor was not present at the moment of confinement. I repeat that I do not wish to dissociate myself from the anxiety which the hon. Member has displayed in this subject, but I ask him, in the public interest and in the interests of these women, to keep a balanced attitude on the subject. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) has already reminded him, there are other methods which can be used. For example, the hon. Gentleman's figures about pethedine are inaccurate. I do not, however, wish to be driven into agreeing with my hon. Friend that the unrestricted use of trilene is at this stage necessarily advantageous. That is a subject which I am to discuss with the town council.

Commander Galbraith

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to confirm the information given to the House by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann)?

Mr. McNeil

It is quite an involved matter, and hon. Members must not jump to rash conclusions about this subject.

Mr. Kirkwood

That is just like them. They know nothing about Scotland.

Mr. McNeil

Unfortunately they do not know as much about anaesthetics as they should. It is true that trilene has been used in some cases at the direction of the doctor, but not with him present, and I want to look most carefully at that state of affairs.

Mr. Thorneycroft

In view of the figures on this subject which the right hon. Gentleman has made available, will he say what form of analgesia or relief from pain has been given to these women, because on his own figures not one solitary woman has received it in any shape or form.

Mr. McNeil

That is not true. The hon. Gentleman is really running away with things. It is not true. Gas has been used; pethedine has been used; trilene has been used. In addition—and let the hon. Gentleman admit this to the House—wherever the doctor has been present, he could, if the doctor so desired, order any form of anaesthesia. Again I would say that I quite appreciate the anxiety of the hon. Gentleman about Coatbridge, but he ought, in fairness, to admit that the position over the whole country has improved dramatically in the last year in which he started to interest himself in this affair.

Miss Horsbrugh

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of women in Coatbridge had some form of anaesthetic, if we may call it that, in this confinement?

Mr. McNeil

I would not try to offer the Coatbridge figures without notice—I have them here; but let me say this, since I am invited to comment, that 50 per cent. of the women in Scotland—[Hon. Members: "In Coatbridge."] I am sorry, I cannot give that figure without notice.

Mr. Thorneycroft

On a point of order. In view of the fact that I have been supplied with these figures from the Scottish Office and not a solitary woman—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order but an attempt to continue the debate. The hon. Member may give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, he will raise the matter on the Adjournment, but he must not give figures.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I was not proposing to give figures. There are no figures to give. I was proposing to say that I give notice that I shall take an early opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment.

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