HC Deb 13 February 1967 vol 741 cc78-9
49. Mr. William Price

asked the Minister of Health under what circumstances National Health Service patients may have tattoos removed.

51. Mr. Maddan

asked the Minister of Health why the National Health Service spends public money on removing tattoo marks from those who have voluntarily had them done and later decide that they do not want to retain them; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. K. Robinson

An operation to remove tattoo marks can be carried out under the National Health Service only when it is considered necessary on medical grounds.

Mr. Price

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is time that this nonsense was stopped? Would he not further agree that at a time of acute shortage of hospital beds, we should get our priorities right? Will he investigate the situation in prisons where, I understand, a number of inmates are having this operation performed for therapeutic reasons?

Mr. Robinson

Surgery for purely cosmetic reasons is not provided under the National Health Service, but disfigurement caused by tattooing may have psychological ill effects which can result in a medical need for removal.

Mr. Maddan

As it is the right hon. Gentleman's policy to make patients in the National Health Service pay for contraceptive pills if they require them for social purposes, will he not adopt the same policy for people who wish to he "untattooed"?

Mr. Robinson

I can only say that I do not see the analogy which apparently the hon. Gentleman sees.

Mr. Braine

If one of my hon. Friends has the words, "I love Harold Wilson" tattooed on him and is worried about it, does the right hon. Gentleman's Answer mean that he can have the tattoo taken off under the National Health Service? Surely the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) is quite right and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. A question; not a speech.

Mr. Braine

May I put my question another way? In view of the heavy pressures upon the Health Service, should not the right hon. Gentleman now consider making charges for this operation as he has for certain other courses of treatment?

Mr. Robinson

So far as I know, the number of operations is certainly not large and does not represent very heavy pressure on Health Service resources.