HC Deb 08 February 1955 vol 536 cc1731-2
52. Mr. Lawson

asked the Secretary of State for War the arrangements for notifying next-of-kin when National Service men are admitted to hospital.

Mr. Head

When a soldier is admitted to hospital as a battle casualty or suffering from an injury resulting in the loss of an eye or a limb or is seriously or dangerously ill, the next-of-kin is automatically informed. In cases of serious mental illness a letter is sent to the next-of-kin, but in all other cases it is left to the man himself to decide. He is offered a free postcard with which to inform them and help in completing postcards and letters is always available.

Mr. Lawson

Does not the Minister consider that in dealing with young Service men—lads of 18 or 19—the margin of doubt as to responsibility in this sort of case is too great? Is he aware, that I know of a case—which has been reported to his Department—of a lad seriously ill, and that the neighbours knew of his being taken to hospital fully two days before the parents were informed?

Mr. Head

If the hon. Gentleman will let me have details of the case I will look into it. In all serious cases next-of-kin should automatically be informed. In minor cases, and in other difficulties such as going into the guardroom, I think it is better to let the man decide whether or not to inform his next-of-kin.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Apropos that reply, what steps are taken, where the illness is of long duration, to ensure that the sick man is placed in a hospital near his home?

Mr. Head

It is very difficult to do that when such a very large proportion of the Army is overseas.