HC Deb 10 December 1958 vol 597 cc405-6
Mr. Charles Grey (Durham)

I confess, as I did before, that I am sorry that I have not had the time to telephone the Department concerned in the matter which I wish to raise. It concerns the Minister of Health, and it is a matter very near and dear to me. I questioned the Minister on Monday about the approximate number of persons waiting for hospital beds in the Northern Region; and how many of these have been waiting for three months, six months, nine months and for longer periods, respectively. I thought that that was a very important Question to put. I got this Answer from the Parliamentary Secretary: Information in the precise form requested is not available, but of the 24,000 people awaiting admission on 31st August about 13,000 had been waiting less than 4 months, 6,000 between four and 12 months and 5,000 over a year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December. 1958; Vol. 597, c. 29.] That number, 5,000 over a year, is rather fantastic, and I am taking the opportunity now to bring this very serious position to the notice of the Minister and to ask that something must be done about it. While I have not precise information about the number of private beds there are in the various hospitals in the Northern Region, I think that it would be an excellent opportunity for the Minister himself to consider, if there are a number of private beds which are not occupied, whether they ought to be used for the people who have been on the waiting list for a long time.

Mr. Ridsdale

On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) to spoil the rhythm of the debate which we have been developing by coming into the debate and speaking on another subject? If he wished to speak on this point, could he not have waited until other hon. Members who wish to speak on the subject which I raised had made their points? If I were given the opportunity of making some points in reply, the hon. Member for Durham could then raise his subject.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) would not be entitled to make a second speech on the motion for the Adjournment on a subject on which he has already spoken. As to the rest of what he has just said, I have already said enough on the subject. There is no more to say, and I would not wish to waste the time of the House.

Mr. Grey

I assure the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) that I do not intend to speak for very long. We can raise matters of this kind on the Motion for the Adjournment and I make no apology for doing so now. I dare say that the subject on which the hon. Member for Harwich spoke is important, but there is nothing more important than the issue which I have raised.

I repeat that when about 5,000 people have been waiting for hospital beds for more than a year it is time that the matter was brought to the Minister's attention. I am doing so now, and I hope that an hon. Member opposite will convey my words to the Minister. It is incredible that such a large proportion of people in the Northern Region should be waiting for so long to go into hospital. It would help, but would not solve the problem, if the situation were relieved by using unoccupied private beds, but the real answer is to build more hospitals and I appeal to an hon. Member opposite to convey that message to the Minister of Health.