Oral Answers to Questions — National Health Service – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1949.
asked the Minister of Health what arrangements now exist for giving priority to school children where spectacles are required to enable children to derive the full benefit from their education.
The opticians have made arrangements whereby the most urgent cases among both children and adults are given priority. My hon. Friend will realise that, if a general slowing down is to be avoided, such arrangements can only be applied to the worst cases.
Could my right hon. Friend say whether he has issued instructions or merely suggestions in this matter, as there seems to be a great variation in treatment as between different opticians and manufacturers?
There are different arrangements because some opticians are under a contract with manufacturers who are able to supply earlier than others, and we propose to rationalise the whole system.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are cases where the education of children has been seriously handicapped in this respect, and that I have had a report of the case of a child whose school report says that the child's education has been handicapped through lack of glasses? Is he aware that this child has waited for nearly 12 months and has only just been supplied?
That is a case where the optician concerned has not operated the priority scheme properly. As we have to operate this scheme through private opticians, all we can do is to rely upon their conduct.
Is the Minister aware that there are such cases as that outlined in the letter I received this morning which tells of a young girl who cannot carry on her schooling and cannot get glasses until next year? Is he aware that last week I met a friend of mine who obtained a note from the doctor and in three weeks he had received a pair of glasses? Cannot something be done to solve this problem?
As I have already said, this scheme has been operated among thousands of private opticians who have their own arrangements with the manufacturers of spectacles. If I were operating it directly, these anomalies would not arise.
Has the Minister recommended a priority scheme and would he tell us whether he has suggested that 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. of all cases should be considered to be priority cases, or what sort of priority scheme has he recommended?