HC Deb 01 July 1963 vol 680 cc3-4
4. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Health how many amenity beds are now available in hospitals in England and Wales; whether this number is likely to be increased; and what action he is taking to draw public attention to the existence of these beds and the conditions under which they can be obtained.

Mr. Powell

Five thousand and twelve at the end of last year; this will depend on demand; the hospital authorities concerned are asked to remind doctors and prospective patients that these beds are available.

Mr. Hall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people who would wish to have a private room in a hospital are unaware of the existence of amenity beds and many who are aware of the facility are unable to take advantage of it because there appear to be too few per hospital? Will he take steps to publicise the existence of these beds so that people know about them? If a need is shown, will he then agree to increase the number of amenity beds available?

Mr. Powell

I will certainly consider any application made to me by a hospital authority for an increase in the number of amenity beds. I agree with my hon. Friend that the existence of this facility is in many places insufficiently known, and I have asked hospital authorities to do all they can to make it known. I am informed that a booklet in preparation giving information about the hospital in my hon. Friend's division will include specific reference to this facility.

Mrs. Braddock

Will the Minister be very careful about this matter, because there has been much complaint that people at the moment are able to jump the queue? Waiting lists are very long. Where people can pay extra, they can get into hospital for the treatment they need, whether they need it urgently or not. An increase in the number of amenity beds available will merely increase the possibility of people being able to jump the queue if they are able to pay, thus making waiting lists even longer.

Mr. Powell

No, that cannot arise because amenity beds are available for other patients as and whenever they need them.

Mr. K. Robinson

Since the occupancy rate of amenity beds is substantially higher than that of pay beds, would he consider converting some Section 5 beds into Section 4 beds?

Mr. Powell

Without notice, I am not sure that there is very much difference between the two. There is a big difference between the occupancy for paying patients and the total occupancy.