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 Mrs Jean Mann Mrs Jean Mann , Coatbridge and Airdrie 12:00 am, 12th March 1959

I wish briefly to comment upon certain items in the Estimates and make some suggestions. I shall not make a long speech, because I want to go to have something to eat as soon as possible. I raised last year a great many of the points which have been raised about maternity and midwifery services in Scotland, when I spoke on the Estimates. The services could be streamlined. Where there is difficulty in providing enough beds, care ought to be exercised so that the beds which are available go to the right people.

There are many women, whose housing conditions are perfect, who have a second or third safe confinement in hospital. I never had a confinement in hospital, and I have had six. To me, the birth of a child was a very happy thing. It took place in my own home. My husband loved the idea of my being at home, because it gave him a grand excuse for entertaining all his friends and "wetting the baby's head". When I came to my third, fourth, fifth and sixth confinements, my children were exceedingly glad that their mother was not packing up and leaving them to go away somewhere—they never could understand exactly where. I was always at home.

There must be many women who could well have their confinements at home. Indeed, it is a very joyous event, the most joyous event in a young couple's life. Having one's baby in hospital, with doctors and nurses in attendance, good people though they are, and leaving one's children behind at home, is a horrible idea to most mothers.

We know that it is always wise for the first confinement to take place in hospital. There are specialists who deplore the idea of having the fourth, fifth or later confinements at home, and it is thought that mothers entering von these later confinements should go to hospital. Is it possible to devise a system whereby priority would be given to women having their first confinement or their fourth or further confinement, and to women whose home circumstances are such that it is not advisable for the baby to born there?

There is this further difficulty. Although we have had a free home midwifery service in Scotland for almost twenty-two years, we have never had agreement on how we should operate it. I was in Glasgow at that time and our doctor would not allow a Glasgow doctor to undertake a confinement unless he had had at least seven years' experience of bringing babies into the world. England has a very wise system. Here no doctor is allowed to undertake midwifery unless he has served a six months' post-graduate course. I think that this is halfway towards the recognised diploma of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gym-ecologists. If a doctor has this qualification, he then knows how to meet complications which may arise in the course of a confinement. Some of the things which I have mentioned have been recommended in the Report by the Maternity Services Review Committee in Scotland. I hope that they will be carried out.

I have a complaint to make about the ambulance service. In this respect, some areas are over-serviced. There are patients who travel in an ambulance when they could quite well walk. Some patients insist on being driven home when they could quite well walk. I know that some specialists have told patients to walk and have received the reply that the patient's doctor insists on an ambulance, and if he dared to refuse the patient would threaten to take his medical cards to another doctor. There is far too much bullying of doctors by patients who threaten to take their medical cards to another doctor who, for the sake of getting a few extra fees, will take on anybody.

There have been complaints throughout my constituency of an ambulance arriving with only one man. How is it possible for one man to manipulate an invalid on to a stretcher? In such cases, extra help has to be sought. I have had complaints from men who have had to take time off from work because they knew that an ambulance with only one man was coming for their wives. We should have value for the money which we are spending. People should use the Health Service and not abuse it. They should walk if they are able to do so and should allow the ambulance to be used by others who most need it and for whom it is absolutely essential.

I agree with what has been said about the ten-year vision of the future. There should be a bit of automation in the Health Service. Let me consider, first, the rate of growth in the care of mothers and young children by home nursing and domestic help. There is a great appreciation of the home helps and many complaints that we have not enough of them. Why do we always insist that home helps should be women? Has nobody heard of men cooks, batmen, or retired male nurses?

Why not recruit men as domestic helps? I know quite a lot of crotchety old bachelors who insist on going into hospital rather than "have a woman mucking around my apartment", but they would not mind if it were a man—say, an ex-Army man or one who had been a male nurse. I suggest that we turn our attention to the fact that there are men who are good cooks, men who can tidy up a kitchen, make beds and see another man comfortable, and who can give the kind of domestic help that is given mostly by women.

I think that the home nursing, domestic help and care of mothers and young children services could be streamlined. I know many lady doctors who, on an afternoon, have let it be known far and wide that that is the afternoon when they run their clinic for women and children. I know that these are very popular clinics. Again, it is an idea borrowed from England. The mothers come along with their babies and it is probably their own lady doctor to whom they are coming.

If we operated the same geriatric treatment as is given in some of the English hospitals, particularly in London, where elderly people are taken inside for a period—perhaps it is six weeks in hospital followed by six weeks at home—we might put these old people back on their feet. We might manage to eliminate a good deal of the nursing and also of the home help service. If we streamlined, we could pare down a good deal of the inconveniences and the expense of one or two of these services.

I should like to pay a compliment to the Department and particularly to the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Craigton (Mr. J. N. Browne), for the extremely good work he has done in Scotland in the prevention of illness and the prevention of home accidents, which account for more deaths than polio or any other infectious disease. The memorandum introduced by the hon. Gentleman, showing local authorities how they could get the money for setting up committees, has been of great service and gave a lead to England, because we managed to get the English Minister to follow his example.

Now, the hon. Gentleman's "Designing for Safety" booklet, which is going out to every local authority in Scotland, is one of the best things that we have had in Britain for preventing home accidents. Again, the English Minister has promised at Question Time that he will follow Scotland's example and distribute this book to all the English authorities.

Finally, the Joint Under-Secretary has introduced a grant for Scotland that has never been given before by any party. 142 is giving for Scotland as much as has been given for the whole United Kingdom in the way of accident prevention. I am pleased to pay this tribute—