HC Deb 09 March 1970 vol 797 cc910-1
32. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many complaints he has received about the quality and limited choice in spectacle frames under the National Health Service; what estimate he has made of the proportion of adults and children, respectively, who chose to pay for their own frames; and if he will take steps to improve the quality and choice of frames available under the National Health Service.

Dr. John Dunwoody

The number of complaints made to my Department is currently about a dozen a year. About 53 per cent. of adults and 28 per cent. of children have their National Health Service lenses fitted into new private frames. All frames supplied under the National Health Service have to comply with British standards; within the broad specifications of the range, there have been considerable advances in detailed design and the possibility of further advances is kept under review.

Mr. Roberts

Would my hon. Friend accept that I must be getting a high proportion of the complaints? Is he aware that many parents are buying frames which they can ill afford to protect their children from the sort of formalised taunt which can sometimes occur about wearing National Health Service frames? Will he accept that in these terms the National Health Service must always provide the best service and never a second best?

Dr. Dunwoody

My hon. Friend will know better than I the proportion of the nation's complaints which come from South Bedfordshire. I accept that there is a special problem here with children, and we take into account the feelings of children when they are provided with spectacles. It is nevertheless striking that it is among adults that private frames are more frequently sought than among children patients.

Mr. Will Griffiths

Is it not true that for 22 years there has been no change in the design of frames under the National Health Service and that less public money is being spent on general ophthalmic services today than 22 years ago? Is it not time that the Government commenced negotiations with the professions concerned with a view to giving people an opportunity of having a wider choice of frames at fixed charges?

Dr. Dunwoody

I cannot accept what my hon. Friend says, that there has not been any change. I think there have been changes and a wider range is available to patients. Nevertheless, we are keeping closely under review the possibility of a further advance, and if any were to take place we would consult with the professions concerned.

Forward to