HC Deb 20 February 1956 vol 549 cc26-7
41 and 49. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Minister of Health (1) when the maternity department of the Royal Northern Hospital will be reopened;

(2) whether he has considered a letter from the Mayor of Islington protesting against the hardship that will be caused to the people of Islington if the maternity department of the Royal Northern Hospital is to be permanently closed; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

52. Mr. A. Evans

asked the Minister of Health why the maternity department of the Royal Northern Hospital has been closed.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

My right hon. Friend has carefully considered the whole matter, and he does not think it would be right to ask the regional board to reverse its decision not to re-open this unit, which was closed because of infection. It is not well adapted to its purpose; it could be used to greater advantage for other specialties; and there are enough maternity beds elsewhere in the area to meet all essential needs.

Mr. Fletcher

Is the hon. Lady aware that that announcement will create very great hardship in the Borough of Islington? Is she aware that, hitherto, there have been 750 maternity cases a year in this maternity department? The people in Islington live in overcrowded accommodation and find it very difficult to have home confinements, and as a result of this decision many of them will have to travel long distances. Will the Minister be good enough to reconsider the matter in view of the representations which have been made?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I think it is only fair to say that there are 250 other maternity beds in the immediate vicinity of the Royal Northern Hospital, and many more within two miles or so. Since the inception of the National Health Service, it has been held that on the average 50 per cent. of all confinements should take place in hospital, and nothing has been done by this Government to alter that estimate. In this area the figure has been as high as 90 per cent.—far and away above the figure necessary on medical or social grounds. Therefore, I do not think that with the many available maternity beds in the immediate vicinity, there will be cause for hardship.

Mr. A. Evans

Does the Minister agree that it would be helpful if regional hospital beds were to pay some attention to the customs of local communities? Is she not aware that a community may, from long usage, become used to a certain facility, and that apart from the purely organisational advantages of concentration there is the local community point of view to be taken into consideration?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I think that the beds still available will provide ample facilities. In any case, these beds are not lost to the service. I think it must be left to the regional board concerned, if it deems best, to use these beds for another speciality.