HC Deb 13 June 1966 vol 729 cc1013-5
16. Sir S. McAdden

asked the Minister of Health how many artificial kidney machines are available within the National Health Service; and what is the price per machine.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Kenneth Robinson)

There are at present about 100 patients suffering from chronic renal failure being treated on kidney machines. There will be a substantial increase in facilities for this form of treatment in the next twelve months. Adequate facilities already exist for treating acute renal failure. The cost of machines and their associated equipment varies from about £2,000 to about £3,500 according to type.

Sir S. McAdden

But has the Minister's attention been called to a B.B.C. programme in which it was said that over 2,000 people died every year through the absence of these machines? Would not the resources of the National Health Service be better employed on providing machines to keep people alive rather than providing for the abolition of prescription charges in order that people can get aspirins without paying for them?

Mr. Robinson

Ignoring the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question—because I think that this is a very serious matter—may I tell him that there is no reliable means of assessing how many patients might benefit from intermittent dialysis. The limiting factors in the development of the facility are the provision of accommodation for trained staff and equipment, although at the moment we have sufficient equipment to meet all orders from hospitals. Development is not at present limited by shortage of money.

Dr. John Dunwoody

When bringing in these new machines, which we are all very pleased to hear about, will my right hon. Friend see that they are more evenly distributed throughout the country so that it is no longer necessary for desperately ill patients to be transported considerable distances to be given this life-saving treatment?

Mr. Robinson

That is certainly one of the ideas of establishing wider facilities. I have made funds available for the establishment or extension of these dialysis units at 15 hospitals and other units are being considered by hospital authorities. Each of these units will have at least ten beds.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the Minister consider that patients with chronic renal failure can be treated in their own homes? What steps is he taking to ensure that the necessary machines will be provided by local authorities as well as by the hospitals?

Mr. Robinson

This must be a matter for hospital authorities. Home dialysis presents special problems. It is important to evaluate them before commending any widespread extension of this practice. A pilot study is in progress in London and a further pilot trial is planned in the North of England. We must see what results these trials produce before moving too fast in home dialysis.