HL Deb 04 February 2003 vol 644 cc110-2

2.53 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether the medical cover provided for Members and staff of the House of Lords and visitors to the House satisfies health and safety regulations.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

Yes, my Lords. Although the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and health and safety regulations made under Section 15 of that Act do not apply to Parliament, the House of Lords applies their provisions as if they did.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord—I am not sure whether he is still my noble friend—for that rather small reply. What happens after six o'clock in the evening, when I understand that there is no nurse or doctor present in the Houses of Parliament? I am worried not about the Members in the Chamber, but about the people in the kitchens, if there were an accident, or a visitor, who could either have a fall or suffer some kind of seizure. What immediate provision is ready for their benefit?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, perhaps there is a misunderstanding of the role of the practice nurse, who is present to provide non-urgent, walk-in treatment for Members and staff. She has no formal role in dealing with emergencies, so her absence has no bearing on compliance with health and safety regulations. Nevertheless, in response to requests from Members, the Parliamentary Medical Panel, which is composed of medically qualified Members of both Houses, has considered options for extending the service. The panel has rejected that idea and believes that cover by the qualified first-aiders, of whom there more than 30 in this House alone, is the better way to provide cover.

In addition. negotiations are currently under way with a practice near the Palace to provide a full GP service. Although off-site, there would be 24-hour cover, considerably strengthening medical services for Members.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

My Lords, has the efficacy of the first aid arrangements been subject to audit? I understand that before Christmas, a member of the kitchen staff sustained a bad scald and was sitting for a long time untreated. There is good clinical evidence that if scalds are treated immediately, they respond much better than if they are left for several minutes—let alone for up to half an hour—without being adequately treated. I understand that a couple of fractures have also been sustained by members of staff in the men's toilets.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, the noble Baroness is of course well qualified to raise those matters. I am not aware whether those trained in first aid—as I said, more than 30 members of staff, police and security officers hold first-aid qualifications—are audited. However, in the cases to which the noble Baroness referred, I should have thought that an ambulance should have been called and the person involved taken to St Thomas's.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am told that ambulances have not known where to come. Would it not be possible to have someone at the gate alerted that an ambulance is expected? I also thank the Attendants very much for the training that they have undertaken and hope that in due course one of them will give me the kiss of life, if necessary.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, on the latter point, any of them would be delighted to do so. On my noble friend's first point—I shall call her my noble friend—the time taken for ambulances to arrive here is monitored on each occasion. I understand that it is approximately 12 minutes, on average. Obviously, ambulance personnel should know where to come and someone should be there to guide them to the right place. I shall ensure that that is done.

Lord Addington

My Lords, what is the position of Members' staff, advisers and researchers? How do they fit in? Does the House have any official responsibility for those people, who after all allow us to function?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, if they are employed by the House, they are covered by the health and safety at work regulations, which is more than can be said for your Lordships, who are of course not employed by the House. To that extent, cover is provided for the staff rather than for us. I imagine that those who are not employed by the House would fall under the category of third parties. It is a requirement under the regulations that those in control of premises should take reasonable care to ensure that those premises are safe for third parties.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, does the noble Lord not consider the average time of 12½ minutes that it takes an ambulance to get here rather long? After all, St Thomas's is just the other side of the river; one can see it easily from here; and, on average, one could bicycle there in half that time.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, that might be the case if the ambulances came from St Thomas's, which they do not.

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