HL Deb 17 January 1996 vol 568 cc591-2

2.44 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they would support the creation of an international health service.

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

My Lords, although we co-operate through international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, and more informally through professional and other networks, we do not believe it realistic to set up an international health service with every country operating an identical system.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, the object of my Question was to ensure that despite the terrible diseases spreading in many parts of the world, the British people should not be called upon to make any unjust contribution. We are willing to help and to do our best, but we must not be put upon. There must be a fair contribution from all the nations that can afford it. Will the Minister agree that it is vital for the interests of the health organisation that the generosity of the British people should not be exploited?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining the purpose behind his Question. Worldwide, we all have a responsibility to ensure that infectious diseases are contained within the countries affected, but we do not believe it appropriate that we should become involved in other countries' health systems.

Lord Winston

My Lords, is the Minister aware that in West London at present there are many patients on waiting lists who cannot get into hospital? Expensive operating theatres are lying idle. Does she agree that it might be more important to concentrate on a national health service rather than an international one?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, I believe that we have a remarkable National Health Service; it is a near miracle. It is interesting, when one examines waiting lists, that we have seen tremendous progress in the past two or three years through health reforms. In March 1990, over 200,000 people were waiting over one year for treatment and today it is 28,000.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, does not the British National Health Service have an international dimension in that it provides training for overseas doctors? They go back to their own countries with our expertise. Many patients come from overseas to benefit from the provisions not of the National Health Service but of private medical treatment which they have often heard of through the National Health Service.

Baroness Cumberlege

Yes, my Lords, the noble Countess is right. The training of doctors in this country is recognised as being among the best in the world. When one travels abroad it is encouraging to see many of the students now taking on positions of clinical responsibility and leading medical practice in their own countries.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the reciprocal arrangements which were concluded by the Council of Europe regarding the interchange of facilities between the European countries affected are still fully in force? Will she ensure that people here are aware of the reciprocal arrangements whereby participants in the National Health Service here are entitled to equivalent treatment in other countries with whom arrangements have been negotiated through the aegis of the Council of Europe?

Baroness Cumberlege

Yes, my Lords.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, will the Minister advise the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, that when he next goes to Europe he should take with him Form E.111? It gives him the right to treatment in any European Union country.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, far be it from me to give the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, any advice.

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