HC Deb 23 February 1999 vol 326 c171
7. Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

When he last met the chairmen of health boards to discuss matters relating to the medical care of elderly people. [70825]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Sam Galbraith)

I meet representatives of health boards and national health service trusts regularly to discuss matters of current interest, including matters relating to the medical care of elderly people.

From 1 July 1999, this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Dr. Godman

Before it becomes a matter for the Scottish Parliament, dare I remind my hon. Friend that two problems affecting the medical treatment of the elderly relate to bed blocking—in all its faulty definitions—and medical examinations? What guidelines are given to general practitioners about the annual medical examinations that people of 75 years and above receive? Are those elderly people expected to skip down to the surgeries or are allowances made for their infirmity? How comprehensive are those examinations of the elderly?

Mr. Galbraith

I assure my hon. Friend that allowances are made for general practitioners to visit elderly people in their homes in order to conduct examinations. The general practitioners are under an obligation either to invite elderly people to their surgeries or to conduct home visits. They carry out full examinations which assess the needs of the individual and then decide what matters should be pursued.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

When examining issues of long-term care for the elderly, I am sure that the Minister will wish to have regard to the royal commission's report on that subject. Can the Minister shed some light on why that commission—which the House was promised would report within 12 months after 4 December 1997—has not reported yet?

Mr. Galbraith

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is important to get such reports correct rather than to get them early. I trust that that has been the motivating factor for the royal commission.

Mr. James Wray (Glasgow, Baillieston)

Will the Minister tell the House why he has been pontificating about the fluoridation of the public water supply? Does he realise that he could be in breach of the Food and Drugs (Scotland) Act 1956, the Medicine Act 1968 and the Water Act 1945? Will he tell the House what doctor provides treatment to patients whom he never sees?

Mr. Galbraith

As many of my colleagues will know, my hon. Friend and I have had many jousts on this matter, in public and in private, and I am grateful to him for continuing the debate. He is looking a bit the worse for wear for it. We must take the most significant public measure possible to help my hon. Friend's constituents, and we must remember that this is an issue for his constituents more than anyone else. I know that he lives not in his constituency, but rather in a well-off place—but we must think about his constituents.