asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in the county of Worcester, particularly in the Redditch and Bromsgrove areas, in the last 12 months in the provision for maternity cases; and whether he will give the number of beds now available for women who cannot have their babies at home owing to unsuitable conditions, as compared with the position a year ago.
According to the annual returns made by the welfare authorities, there were on 31st December, 1943, 46 maternity beds in institutions owned by local authorities in Worcestershire and 20 in voluntary institutions. The corresponding figures on 31st December, 1944, were 87 and 20. In addition, the County Council are at present using a former Emergency Maternity Home, which provided 18 emergency maternity beds, as an annexe to one of their own institutions, and have also made arrangements to send cases to another former Emergency Maternity Home, now returned to its former owners, which provided 33 emergency maternity beds.
May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he is aware of the extreme hardship caused to mothers in the towns named and by the distances which it is necessary at present to convey them by ambulances or otherwise? Is there anything he can do to provide further homes for these cases?
The distances between the additional groups of beds which I have mentioned—and which together amount to quite a substantial number—and the towns to which my hon. Friend has referred are not very great. I should not think it right to promise the building or equipping of additional maternity homes at a very early date, and I am afraid that expectant mothers must at present be prepared to go 10, 15 or even 20 miles for their accommodation.