HL Deb 16 May 1994 vol 555 cc1-3

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have received any representations from the Royal British Legion and other veterans' organisations concerning the level of NHS treatment available for war veterans of pensionable age.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege)

My Lords, we have received none. However, we have today written to trusts, hospitals and family health service authorities to remind them that they should give priority to war pensioners, both as in-patients and out-patients, for examination or treatment which relates to the conditions for which they receive a war pension.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. I am putting this question on behalf of the Royal British Legion, the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association and the Normandy Veterans' Association. There is some apprehension among those organisations that if war veterans are getting on in years—if they are aged between 75 and 85 —they may be denied treatment. All they are asking for is that these complaints be examined. Their leaders say that they should not have to face this anxiety. Some of it may be groundless, but these ex-servicemen who fought for their country can be reassured only by this House and Parliament.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, as I said in my original reply, we have not received any complaints from the Royal British Legion. But if there are complaints regarding individual cases, we would want to look into them. Perhaps I may say how much we appreciate the work done by the Royal British Legion.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, is it possible to have an assurance that treatment of lung cancer and heart conditions will not be withheld from, war veterans on the grounds that they smoke?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, when clinicians treat patients they take into account a range of conditions and the situation of the individual patient. We leave those issues to clinicians.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the noble Baroness look into a number of primary issues that have been raised with me; namely, the proposal to limit service hospitals? The ex-servicemen and women claim that the Department of Social Security and the NHS create for them unnecessary problems. They feel that they would be much better served if there were a single department within the Ministry of Defence to look after their problems and apprehensions.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, we are anxious to treat everyone in the National Health Service as well as we can. War veterans get priority treatment of the conditions for which they receive a pension. As to service hospitals, a whole range of issues has to be taken into account and we would not want to be running establishments that are not fully used.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, can we be given the absolute assurance that clinical judgment is always the only criterion which is used and that the prejudices of doctors and consultants, whether on the question of age or life style, are in no way involved? As the noble Baroness knows, some recent examples make one wonder whether clinical judgment is the only criterion.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, the Royal College of Physicians recently issued a report concerning discrimination. In categoric guidelines to its members it says that it does not want clinicians ever to use anything other than clinical judgment when treating patients.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, has that point been made clear to the people running the new National Health Service trusts as they, not the physicians, are the final deliverers of the service?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, when it comes to priorities, clearly health authorities have to set them. When it comes to the treatment of individual patients, that is a job for clinicians.

Back to