HC Deb 20 March 1967 vol 743 cc1046-7
24. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider seeking the introduction of payments by patients to their doctors for consultations and to their chemists for medicines, with subsequent reimbursement through the National Health Service, in inverse proportion to incomes, as is the practice in France and other European countries.

Mr. K. Robinson

No, Sir.

Mr. Fisher

Would the Minister accept that this is a genuinely interrogative question, unlike some of mine, and is designed to air an idea to which I do not necessarily subscribe? Would he bear in mind that it might have the avantage of reminding people of how very expensive consultations in medicine are and might discourage the unnecessary use of them?

Mr. Robinson

I think that it would also have disadvantages, because the need to find the money initially would deter some patients from receiving medical attention and treatment, particularly the poorest patients, who may well have the greatest need for medical attention. Evidence from other countries does not suggest that payments by patients solve the problems of general practitioners.

Dr. Summerskill

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are signs that many right hon. and hon. Members opposite, led by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), would like to see the abolition of State medicine and a return to private practice?

Mr. Robinson

I cannot believe that that is universally the view on the Conservative benches.

Mr. Braine

Is the Minister aware that the arrangements mentioned in my hon. Friend's Question work very well indeed in New Zealand and have worked very well under Labour Governments in New Zealand? Has his Department made a recent study of how the New Zealand system works?

Mr. Robinson

Yes. We know exactly what happens in New Zealand.

Mr. Molloy

I hope that my right hon. Friend will maintain his original Answer, because the content of this Question—HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] Is my right hon. Friend aware that the content of this Question is a surreptitious attempt to assassinate the most humanitarian service ever produced by any country in the world and which is still anathema to the Conservative Party?

Mr. Robinson

To the extent that those allegations are correct, the attempt has failed.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

Has the Minister studied the account of the Canadian experiment in this direction which was written up in a paper-back called "The American Health Scandal", which I lent him?

Mr. Robinson

Yes; I read with very great interest the book which the right hon. Gentleman lent me, and I thought it was a very fine tribute to the National Health Service.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

And to the Canadian one.