§ Sir Hugh Rossi
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is now in a position to publish the report of the working party on the services of artificial limb and appliance centres; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Newton
The report of the working party chaired by Professor Ian McColl is being published today, and I am placing copies in the Library of the House. I am grateful to Professor McColl and his colleagues for the effort they have devoted to its preparation, and to my hon. Friend for the part he played in initiating this review.
We set up the working party because of our concern that there were shortcomings in the services we provide for disabled people. As there had been no comprehensive review of the subject since it was transferred to the Ministry of Health in 1953, we thought it right to have an independent group carry out a detailed appraisal of these services and make recommendations for future development.
The working party, while acknowledging the good work done over the years by artificial limb and appliance centres, has confirmed that the services are falling below standard in several respects. It has identified a number of matters which must be tackled vigorously if the quality of care we want for patients is to be secured and delivered efficiently and economically.
A number of deficiencies identified by the working party are already being tackled. For example, wheelchair styling has been improved, and a new basic wheelchair for occasional use is to be introduced shortly; new lightweight artificial limbs which compare very favourably with overseas products are now being supplied; steps have been taken to improve management co-ordination and the information available to managers; and progress has been made in improving financial control and reducing costs.
Further improvements should follow from the consultancy study, which we expect to commission shortly, on the wider use of computers in the services. In the light of the report we shall also give special attention to improving appointments and transport for patients, on which an operational research study is now being planned.
Many of the working party's recommendations will require consultation with professional, staff and other interests, and we shall open these consultations at once.
The working party's recommendations on organisational structure require particularly careful consideration. 392W I have asked the NHS Management Board, which contains much experience of business and management, to advise me on this and to oversee the whole programme of action for developing these services.
I am pleased that the working party pays tribute to the dedication of the staff who man the services of artificial limb and appliance centres. I am glad to endorse this, and to express my confidence in the full support of the staff in improving these vital services for many disabled people.