HC Deb 11 December 1967 vol 756 cc23-4
21. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister of Health whether general administrative costs within a hospital are included in assessing charges for private beds in hospitals.

Mr. K. Robinson

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister aware that pay beds in many hospitals are pricing themselves out of the market? Would it not be better for them to carry the overheads of their department rather than the very high overheads of the whole hospital which accrue to the Health Service as a whole?

Mr. Robinson

The current method of calculating charges for pay beds is based on the Regulations of 1953 which were introduced when the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) was Minister.

Mr. Molloy

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that further aid to pay beds would mean that people who can afford to pay for these things would be, to a degree, subsidised by the general taxpayer? Would he not agree that the ideal solution to all this would be to raise the status of National Health Service hospitals so that pay beds became a thing of the past and cash would have no further consideration in the treatment of sickness?

Mr. Robinson

I have said that I am very anxious indeed to raise standards in the National Health Service so that no one would wish to be treated privately, but in answering this Question I was referring to current methods of calculating prices. My hon. Friend will know that new methods are proposed in the Health Services and Public Health Bill which is now before the House.

Mr. Frederic Harris

When there is such a great shortage in the hospitals because money is not being found to pay for nurses, is it not crazy to follow a policy of closing down wards of private beds which, if established, would help the whole situation?

Mr. Robinson

I think the hon. Member misunderstands the position. The reduction in the number of pay beds which took place as a result of my review means that the beds released are now available for non-paying patients.

Mr. Dean

When does the Minister expect his new proposal for assessing charges on a national basis to be in operation?

Mr. Robinson

Certainly not until the Bill is on the Statute Book.