Vote 11. National Health Service, Scotland

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1959.

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Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife East 12:00 am, 12th March 1959

I should like to join the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State upon the speech he delivered at short notice on a subject which is a little off his normal beat. He did it exceptionally well and I am happy that he did it in accordance with the traditions of the office.

The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North has also given an example to the Committee of an admirable and temperate speech. We are obviously dealing with a matter on which we are entitled to express our views without being tied to any party line. On this matter we should try to state the point of view that represents the human needs of our country and the hon. Lady did that with great skill, great knowledge and experience.

Listening to the two speeches which have been made, I came to the conclusion that probably the essence of what we are discussing tonight is the responsibility of the hospital boards. It is what the hospital boards are doing in their hopsitals that matters so much. In that connection, I was very interested to read the Report of the Acton Society Trust which we recently received. The Report is called "Creative Leadership in a State Service", meaning a State health service. It is a very interesting report on the various activities of the National Health Service.

The Report is addressed almost entirely to the English service. There are just a few words, but not any more, addressed to the Scottish service. Since there is a great deal of criticism in the Report, I should like very much to know from my hon. Friend whether the Report covers Scotland, whether, in the course of its examination, the Committee looked into Scottish affairs, and to what extent their criticisms apply to Scotland. It would be very interesting to know that.

The reason I press for that is that I want to know what measures my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is taking to give guidance to hospital boards on future policy. We have come to the end of roughly ten years of the National Health Service. As the hon. Lady said, it has done remarkable work. I agree with that. I agree with her, too, in paying tribute to the labours of the people concerned with the Service during those ten years. We have learned a great deal. There has been a tremendous development in spheres, many of which we had not thought of before.

Where do we go from here? Is it not fair to assume that the next ten years will be very different again? Things have been happening recently—the hon. Lady spoke about the maternity service; I could quote other examples—that are not to everybody's satisfaction, where some changes or developments are needed. At this time, when we might say that we are consolidating or about to consolidate ten years' service, we should be thinking and Planning ahead.

I give another example of changes that have come about which nobody expected. The other day my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland told us—I was very surprised to hear it—about the redundancy in the beds used for tuberculosis. He said that 1,000 beds had become redundant at the end of last year.Iremember—and I am sure that the hon. Lady remembers—many a debate in the past in the days when tuberculosis was a very serious thing and gave us cause for great anxiety. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of the medical service and others, that period has apparently passed and we have reached the miraculous situation of having too many beds now. It is extraordinary.

Were we ready for the change? Were all the beds that were made redundant in that way used? Is there some other big need growing that we ought to know about? In other words, is the Scottish Health Department not only thinking forward, but advising hospital boards on the lines of their thought?

There is a need for assurance from my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State is both aware of the change in the nature of the problem and is taking proper steps to ensure that hospital boards are planning forward. We all know quite well that hospital boards and their staffs are mostly overwhelmed with work and worries. As the hon. Lady said, conditions change from area to area. A board of governors in a hospital is generally very busy on a large variety of small details; they are very important, but the tendency is to become overwhelmed with detail. The time has now come when we ought to be giving a clear directive to hospital boards to look ahead.