HC Deb 06 February 1973 vol 850 cc206-8
7. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what discussions his Department has had concerning the takeover of private wings in National Health Service hospitals by private financiers; and whether he will make a statement.

Sir K. Joseph

I would refer the hon. Lady to my reply to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) on 23rd January.—[Vol. 849, c. 79.]

Dr. Summerskill

That answer to my hon. Friend was extremely incomplete. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the possible takeover by private financiers of private wards attracts scarce doctors, nurses and technicians away from the public sector of the National Health Service? Will he give a positive assurance that the Government will never agree to such a takeover of any private wards for profit-making purposes?

Sir K. Joseph

I entirely reject the hon. Lady's suggestion that my answer was incomplete. I was asked how many times I had met commercial companies since taking office with the purpose that the hon. Lady has in mind. My answer was to explain in full the one occasion on which I had so met anybody. There was nothing incomplete about my answer. It finished by saying, and I repeat: I have no plans for handing over National Health Service facilities for development by commercial companies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January 1973; Vol. 849, c. 79.]

Dr. Stuttaford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that private practice has something to offer and that it retains doctors in this country? On the other hand, American medicine is held in very grave disregard by the American patients. We want no truck with that whatsoever in this country. Private practice here is still held in fairly good regard by the medical profession and the patients. It would be a retrograde step if we had any American finance in it.

Sir K. Joseph

I have always said, and I repeat, that private practice has a great deal to contribute to the health and benefit of the people of this country. I stand by that opinion.

13. Mr. Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's proposals for the future of the private bed and private patient system within the National Health Service.

Sir K. Joseph

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) on 29th January.—[Vol. 849, c. 319.]

Mr. Milne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his reply does not go nearly far enough? Does he appreciate that in areas such as my own, and in South-East Northumberland in general, people are being held back from receiving attention and treatment because of the private patient system that still operates within the health service? If the health service is to mean anything at all, does he agree that there must be a steady but quick progression towards hospital and medical treatment on the basis of need rather than of payment?

Sir K. Joseph

I do not accept the the hon. Gentleman's appraisal, but in the presence of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) who trounced me over the weekend——

Mrs. Renée Short

And we are waiting for a reply.

Sir K. Joseph

—I say with some diffidence that a White Paper will be presented by me before many weeks are out expressing the Government's views about private practice and the relationship of private practice to the National Health Service.

Mrs. Short

When are we to get the White Paper?

Mr. Fernyhough

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that at the last election the Conservative Party talked about "one nation"? As long as many people when they are sick can buy preferential treatment, does not this mean that we are still "two nations"?

Sir K. Joseph

The right hon. Gentleman is oversimplifying, and I think he knows it. The fact is that for urgent medical need money is not relevant——

Mrs. Short

Yes, it is.

Sir K. Joseph

—and in my view the availability of private practice brings substantial advantages to the whole of the people, advantages which I must justify in my answers to the Select Committee.