HC Deb 29 November 1972 vol 847 cc391-2
1. Mr. Ewing

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many postmen have been retired on medical grounds in the last two years; and what was the average age of those retired.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Sir John Eden)

The Post Office tells me that in the two years ended on 31st March, 1972, 1,231 postmen were retired on medical grounds. The average age was 48.4 years.

Mr. Ewing

Is the Minister aware that I am absolutely staggered by these figures? Does he agree that this is a serious problem? Will he further agree to set up a medical inquiry to investigate the causes of postmen retiring at such an early age? Surely this situation requires further investigation?

Sir J. Eden

I do not minimise the seriousness of this matter, but it does represent 0.7 per cent. of the total postmen staff. There are special arrangements in the Post Office, which has its own occupational health service. It is conducting an investigation into some of these matters in conjunction with Guy's Hospital.

27. Mr. Ewing

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what medical condition was the cause of the largest number of medical retirements among postmen in the last two years.

Sir J. Eden

The Post Office tells me that diseases of the bones and back and muscular troubles were the major causes of retirement.

Mr. Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that evidence is now emerging to the effect that heart conditions and bronchitis as a result of work in the new mechanised sorting office are a further major element in the discharge of postmen at an early age? If this proves to be the case in the study now being conducted by Guy's Hospital, will the Minister ensure that interim measures are taken to do something about those two diseases?

Sir J. Eden

The study, in conjunction with experts from Guy's Hospital, is being conducted into the widespread incidence of low back pain among postal workers. However, the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that coronary disease and angina are involved. Mental, psycho-neurotic and personality disorders and bronchitis are other major causes.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the concern that is felt when 10 per cent. of the labour force is affected in this way? Will he ask the Post Office how many of these men, as well as being affected by their industrial work and activity, have served their country in peace and in war?

Sir J. Eden

I am sure that a substantial proportion of them will fall into that last category. These are people to whom traditions of service seem to come very naturally. No one can be complacent about the situation and, as I hope is clear from my replies, the whole matter is now being examined very seriously.