HC Deb 24 February 1964 vol 690 cc24-5
19. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the facts sent to him by the hon. Member for Tynemouth on the high rate of infant mortality in the north-east region; and why the regional hospital board were unable to approve the proposal to convert a private nursing home into a maternity unit for local doctors' patients.

Mr. Braine

In 1962 the perinatal rate for England and Wales was 31 per 1,000 births. For the Northern standard region it was 34, and for Newcastle-on-Tyne 33. All three rates show a steady decline since 1959, when they were 34, 37 and 39, respectively. I assume the second part of the Question refers to Fernwood House, Newcastle-on-Tyne. The regional board rejected this proposal because of the high cost of acquisition and adaptation, and of the running costs involved.

Dame Irene Ward

Is it not correct to say that, in spite of the improvement, there is still a high level of infant mortality on the North-East Coast? As we are tremendously short of hospital beds of all kinds, would not a little more generosity from the Ministry to the regional hospital board help us to overcome some of our difficulties? Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend to look at this matter in view of the grave anxiety of the Newcastle Regional Hospital Board and of the North-East Coast in general?

Mr. Braine

The answer to my hon. Friend's first question is "Yes". That is the case. I take note of what she has said and I will ask my right hon. Friend to consider these matters. The attention of all the regional boards has been drawn to the need to encourage local liaison among the hospitals, local health authorities and G.Ps. to ensure the best use of existing resources and to increase maternity service facilities in acceptable ways as soon as possible. My right hon. Friend has made the urgency of the position clear.

Mrs. Emmet

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is part of the general anxiety in the country that local facilities should not be abolished wholesale in the new hospital plan so that the local practitioner can remain in close touch with his patient and the great anxiety that the Minister should not lose sight of the value of small cottage hospitals, nursing homes and small hospitals in conjunction with local general practitioner services?

Mr. Braine

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. That question is very much in my right hon. Friend's mind; and there is a later Question about it.