HC Deb 01 February 1965 vol 705 cc721-2
Mr. Lomas

asked the Minister of Health what is the percentage and number of private pay beds in the hospitals under his control; and whether, in view of the shortage of hospital beds, he will take steps to reduce this figure.

Mr. K. Robinson

1.2 per cent. and 5,658. I am at present reviewing policy on pay beds and will bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Mr. Lomas

While being grateful for my right hon. Friend's assurance that he is going to review this policy, might I ask him to bear in mind that many people who are in urgent need of treatment are being compelled to wait while other people, who have the money, are able to buy their way into hospital? Is he aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House consider it quite wrong that one should be able to buy good health if one can afford it?

Mr. Robinson

To the extent that that allegation is justified, it is just one of the considerations I shall take into account in the course of my review.

Dame Edith Pitt

Does the Minister's statement mean that he is going back on the policy which was adopted by his party when they introduced the National Health Service; that is, to provide for private beds, pay beds and amenity beds? If so, what difference will that make, because surely the position is that when pay beds are not in use for paying patients they are made available for National Health Service patients?

Mr. Robinson

I think the hon. Lady has read more into my Answer than she might have done. I said that the whole policy about pay beds was under review.

Mr. Will Griffiths

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the presence of pay beds in our hospitals is one of the factors leading to the policy of queue jumping? Is he aware that this, alongside the part-time consultancy service, is a matter which should be a subject for review, bearing in mind the policy of the party to which he and I belong?

Mr. Robinson

These and other factors will be taken into account, I can assure my hon. Friend.

Mr. Wood

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the need of the occupant of the private pay bed is as great as the occupant of any other bed? Will he reject absolutely and emphatically any attempt by his hon. Friend to remove this limited opportunity to contribute to some of the cost?

Mr. Robinson

I think that the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my hon. Friend, who was suggesting that in some cases the need of patients, medically, who get into pay beds is not as great as the need of some of those who are still waiting in the queue for non-pay beds.