§ 29. Mr. Holland
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what instructions he has issued to regional health authorities concerning the use of general anaesthetics in the dental treatment of the mentally handicapped who invariably suffer additionally with respiratory problems or heart conditions, in view of the recent deaths of mentally handicapped children from Westdale Hospital, Carlton, whilst undergoing dental treatment under a general anaesthetic at Balderton Hospital, Nottinghamshire; and if he will make a statement.
§ Dr. Owen
Decisions on clinical practice concerning individual patients are the responsibility of the clinicians concerned. In 1967 a joint sub-committee of the Standing Medical and Dental Advisory Committees produced a report on dental anaesthesia in which mentally subnormal patients were recognised as one of the categories whose clinical condition may justify general anaesthesia for conservative dental work. The report, which was published, drew attention to the need for proper assessment of patients' fitness for general anaesthesia, discussed the hazards of such anaesthesia in dental surgeries, and suggested safeguards for its administration. In 1972 the Central Health Services Council issued a booklet on emergencies in dental practice 343W which included reference to criteria for safety in dental anaesthesia.
I understand that in the last six years there was one death, in November last, of a child from Westdale Hospital following dental anaesthesia at Balderton Hospital, and that at the inquest the coroner was satisfied that no blame attached to any of the medical staff concerned.