§ Dr. SALTER
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that, under a recent amendment to the dental benefit regulations made pursuant to the National Health Insurance Act, the fee prescribed for administering a general anaesthetic is, in certain cases, as low as 5s.; whether such fees were prescribed with previous consultation with the British Medical Association; whether objections to such fees by members of the medical profession have been brought to his notice; and whether, under the amended regulations, approved societies are entitled to refuse to make any grant at all to their insured members towards the cost of dental treatment, as provided by the Third Schedule to the said Act, solely because, in cases where such members desire to engage as anaesthetist their own medical attendant and themselves to pay to the latter such fee as may be agreed upon between them, such agreed fee is over 5s.?
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
The responsibility for negotiating a scale of fees for the dental treatment of insured persons entitled to dental benefit rests with the Dental Benefit Council, which is a statutory body representative of approved societies and the dental profession. Under the present scale, which has been included in a schedule to the Dental Benefit Regulations, the fee for the administration of a general anaesthetic ranges from 5s. to £1 1s. in accordance with the number of teeth to be extracted. My right hon. Friend is aware that some medical practitioners have expressed the opinion that the fee is inadequate in certain cases but he would explain that the Dental Benefit Regulations are not binding on medical practitioners and do not impose any limitation on the fees chargeable by them. They merely embody the conditions which in the interests of insured250W persons as a whole must be complied with before any grant can be made by approved societies towards the cost of dental treatment. One of these conditions is that the dentist is to be responsible for the provision of all necessary treatment (which would include the services of an anaesthetist, if required), and accordingly the Regulations contemplate that, where an insured person desires his own medical attendant to act as anaesthetist the arrangements should be made through the dentist and not by the insured person himself acting independently.
§ Sir R. ASKE
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the Newcastle-upon-Tyne public assistance committee is refusing, in making assessments, to disregard the amounts of national health insurance benefits and disability pensions prescribed by statute, in cases where the income of the applicant including such benefits or pension is more than the public assistance scale; if he will state whether this practice is generally adopted throughout the country; whether it is contrary to a ruling given by the Ministry of Health; whether the Ministry will bring the matter before the courts to obtain an authoritative decision on the point; and, if not, what action he proposes to adopt to ensure that the statutory provisions are observed and that a uniform practice shall prevail throughout the country?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am aware that the Public Assistance Committee of Newcastle-on-Tyne are acting on an interpretation of Section 48 of the Poor Law Act, 1930, which differs from that commonly adopted elsewhere. I understand that an appeal to a higher court will in all probability be lodged in a Scottish case raising a similar issue (which was referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate in an answer of 24th February). The whole position is being carefully examined, but I am not yet in a position to say what action, if any, may be necessary.