HC Deb 12 May 1958 vol 588 cc6-7
25. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Health if he will amend the charges for hospital private beds so that the patient is charged only the difference between the cost of a public and private bed.

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, Sir. This course would require legislation, and I doubt whether it would be the best way of using any additional money available for the Health Service.

Mr. Hall

Will my right hon. Friend agree that National Insurance contributors who, for medical reasons, may be caused to occupy private beds are normally entitled to the full benefits of National Health Insurance, and is there not an element of injustice in forcing such a person to pay the full charge for a public bed which normally he or she could occupy free of charge, plus a further cost of 5 to 15 per cent.? Will he not look at this matter again?

Mr. Walker-Smith

As I think my hon. Friend will know, this method of payment is prescribed by Section 5 of the National Health Service Act, 1946, and has been followed since then. If we were to vary it, it would require an amendment of that Section.

Dr. Summerskill

Does the Minister realise that this is a retrograde suggestion, which would, indeed, lead to the heavy subsidisation of private beds and, consequently, a great abuse of the Health Service?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not think I would associate myself with the harsh epithet the right hon. Lady applies to my right hon. Friend's suggestion, but there are difficulties in it which are not confined to the legislative difficulty which I indicated.