§ 18 Mrs. Castle
asked the Minister of Health what representations he has made to the North-West Region Hospital Board with regard to the reduction of maternity accommodation in the area.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
In addition to the circular of August, 1951, which I have already sent to the hon. Member, this and all other boards were asked in September last to review their arrangements in areas where the proportion of hospital confinements is high to see whether 2412 accommodation could be better used to meet more urgent needs.
§ Mrs. Castle
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House if this means that there is now a new policy in his Department with regard to maternity accommodation, and is he taking deliberate steps to reduce the number of cases in which mothers can have their babies in hospitals? If that is so, is he aware that it will cause profound fury among the womenfolk of the country, and will he please reverse his decision?
§ Mr. Macleod
I am sorry, but that is just not the position. In September last year I drew attention to a circular dated August, 1951, sent out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middles-brough, East (Mr. Marquand) which stated that in general, in the ordinary areas, the sort of target should be 50–50. As far as Blackburn is concerned, as the hon. Lady knows, the percentage of confinements was running last year at 77 per cent., which is an extremely high figure. The decision about Springfield was taken, I understand, as a result of a review by the hospital management committee in January, 1953, before I drew the attention of boards to the previous circular. The hon. Lady knows—and this is most important—that Springfield, which was an unsatisfactory maternity home of 20 beds, is now housing 30 of the chronic sick and is playing a splendid part in the National Health Service. There has been no change of policy beyond the circular sent out by my Socialist predecessor.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even with the 77 per cent, figure operating in Blackburn there are cases which I brought to his attention and the attention of the House where mothers urgently needing to have their babies in hospital have not been given a bed because it was a second child, or for some other reason? There is a stringency operating, and the regional hospital board pointed out last month that the Minister was urging restrictions on maternity beds. Will he review that policy?
§ Mr. Macleod
Of course, I shall be happy to look carefully into any cases and I have two which the hon. Lady brought to my attention, but there is no new policy on this matter. I think that the position of Blackburn is that for the first child the mother is automatically 2413 accepted, and I believe she is, too, for the fifth. In all other cases mothers are accepted where the home conditions are unsatisfactory or where complications are expected.