I referred to this matter only because it was mentioned in passing by the Parliamentary Secretary. I am prepared to accept what the Minister has said and not pursue it any further. I would point out again that we are discussing a general principle on which we have no details or regulations and it is a little difficult to limit one's field.
I have had very considerable experience in the last 25 years as a general practitioner, and I have had something to do with treating persons under the new Service. In my experience, there has been very little abuse of the Service. I do not find people coming to the surgery for nothing. I do not find that they abuse the Service, or that they make excessive demands. I find that the Service is working very well indeed. There are only a few individuals who, from the point of view of the doctor, are a nuisance.
It is very interesting that when one discusses this matter with a patient, one finds that every patient says, "Of course, doctor, I think there ought to be a charge, but I do not think that the charge ought to be made to me. I think that all those people who are waiting in your surgery and who keep me waiting many hours are probably abusing the Service; but I am not abusing it. I have come for a perfectly good and valid reason." When everyone says that, one realises it is possible to support a proposal of this kind for the wrong reasons; and every person is convinced that he himself is not the person making an excessive demand upon the facilities provided for him.
When all the various possible exemptions are considered—people who are receiving unemployment benefit; people suffering from various kinds of chronic illness; people who are war pensioners; people who are entitled to draw their old age pensions, whether they do or not; people incapacitated for a long period and in financial difficulties—when each one of those various exemptions is considered, plus exemptions we have already been told about, one comes to the conclusion that there would be very little of the £10 million expected which would still await collection.
One is told again of the disorganisation caused to chemists and doctors. There is also the mental disturbance and possible physical deterioration that would be caused to patients, because if we prevent or deter people from going to the doctor's surgery we shall encourage self-medication and the purchase from chemists' shops of patent medicines. I am sure that if this proposal goes through, the vendors of patent medicines will find their sales going up by leaps and bounds, and I think that would be a very harmful result indeed. For all those reasons, I hope that the Amendment will not be proceeded with.