HC Deb 15 June 1954 vol 528 cc1708-9
3. Mr. Carmichael

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the percentage of private hospital beds unoccupied in the West of Scotland Region; and what action he intends to take to reduce the waiting lists for beds under the National Health Service Acts.

Mr. J. Stuart

About one quarter of the beds for private patients in the western region were unoccupied, on the average, during the latest period for which figures are available. This represents about 100 beds scattered over 33 hospitals. It is the constant object of hospital authorities to reduce waiting lists by making more efficient use of existing facilities, and by adding to these facilities so far as available resources permit.

Mr. Carmichael

Does the Secretary of State not realise that it is ordinary public opinion that one can get a private bed by paying the money, and that that is not the spirit of the National Health Service? Will he do something to eliminate the system by which people can get private beds when they are able to pay the money?

Mr. Stuart

Provision exists for these private beds to be used by non-paying patients who are in urgent need. I do not think that 100 beds vacant in 33 hospitals is a large number. There are always gaps, whether for paying or nonpaying patients, between the discharge of one patient and the admission of another, so that a certain number of beds must be empty.

Sir H. Williams

Will the Secretary of State examine the methods that are adopted at the Manor House Hospital, Hampstead?

Mr. Carmichael

That has nothing to do with the Question.

Mr. McGovern

Do not a considerable number of medical men state openly that there are hospital consultants who have private practices, and that when people go to them specially, even for minor ailments, and although there are serious cases waiting for admission to hospital, they are able to get those patients into hospital, because many of the beds are reserved for the private consultants? Will the Secretary of State not consider this racket that is going on in Glasgow?

Mr. Stuart

I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said, but, as I have said, provision exists to use vacant beds to deal with emergency cases.