HL Deb 24 May 1977 vol 383 cc1165-7

2.48 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements are being made for the care of Far East prisoners of war who up to date have received special treatment at Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton.


My Lords, physical check-ups of Far Eastern prisoners of war by specialists in tropical medicine are at present carried out on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Security at Roehampton, Liverpool and Edinburgh. The transformation of Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, into a district general hospital, coupled with the retirement of physicians skilled in tropical medicine, has led my Department to consider alternative future arrangements for the continued use of Queen Mary's.

The Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital at Woolwich, which is nearing completion, is expected to have the necessary specialist resources to undertake the clinical assessments required. I must point out that discussions are under way with the Ministry of Defence about the possibility of making these new facilities available to Far Eastern prisoners of war when, as we hope, the hospital opens next July.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. On behalf of the trustees of the FEPOW Fund, of whom I am one, would he be kind enough to convey our sincere gratitude for the excellent arrangements at Roehampton, the work they have done, the number of people they have cured and the fact that over the years they have rehabilitated hundreds of men who were Japanese prisoners of war? May I also ask him to consider whether perhaps the Naval hospital in Devonport might be used for some of the treatment, because a great many of these ex-prisoners of war live in the West Country?


My Lords, we are aware of the magnificent work which has been done in the past and is being done now at Queen Mary's Hospital, and we wish that to continue. We have had only three centres in the past, and it may well be that, by the nature of things, we can have only three centres in the future. However, I should not like to resume my seat without paying public tribute to the value of the work done by the noble Baroness, who is a trustee of the Far Eastern Prisoners of War and Internees Fund; we are very sensible of the contribution which she herself has made.


My Lords, does the Minister recall that, when Queen Mary's Hospital was turned into a general hospital in the early 'sixties, a specific assurance was given by the then Minister that ex-Service needs would always have priority over any others?


Yes, my Lords; but I tried to point out that we are faced with certain difficulties, not least the retirement of physicians who are skilled in tropical medicine. The future pattern of Queen Mary's Hospital will be very different from what it has been in the past; it will be given over mainly to maternity and geriatrics, although there will be a wing there which, as the noble Lord knows, will deal with limbs, artificial limbs and so on. I think it is generally agreed by the Far Eastern Prisoners of War Association as well as by my Department that it could be profitably and beneficially sited at Woolwich in the new Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital.


My Lords, with reference to the last supplementary question, may I ask the noble Lord to tell us how far the preference for men in receipt of disability pensions is respected not only in these hospitals but in other hospitals under the control of the National Health Service? It is very important.


My Lords, I do not question the importance of this, but it is far from the Question which I have been asked to answer in your Lordships' House and, in any case, I should have to take advice.