asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many persons in the latest year for which figures are available came forward for examination by pneumoconiosis panels; how many were rejected on X-ray examination and without any clinical examination; how many appealed; and in how many cases the appeal was successful.
During 1963, 13,861 claimants received preliminary X-ray examination. Of these, 10,493 were unsuccessful. For the same year, there were 906 appeals dealt with by clinical examinations, of which 35 were successful.
Do not these figures suggest that very great reliance is placed by the pneumoconiosis panels on their first X-ray examination, when there is not necessarily any clinical examination? In view of the fact that replies given by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretaries in the past have shown that this is not entirely reliable, could not we have a review of the techniques and rely less on X-ray examination, and may we not ask for clinical examination in each and every case?
I cannot agree with the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question. It is a fact that many miners and others use this machinery to satisfy themselves that they are free from the disease, and the high standard of reading of X-rays is borne out by the very small proportion of successes among those who appeal.
On the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, any unsuccessful claimant can have a full clinical examination, if he wants one, by appealing. It would certainly be a very wasteful use of the limited number of medical experts available had they to spend their valuable time carrying out a large number of unnecessary clinical examinations.
Will the Joint Parliamentary Secretary explain how it is that of 10,000 rejected cases, fewer than 1,000 are ultimately examined clinically? Is not this evidence of the fact that the machinery is not working properly?
As the Minister seems to be placing such reliance upon the efficacy of X-ray examination, can the hon. and gallant Gentleman explain how it is that a man is X-rayed in one of the big teaching hospitals, a specialist in lung diseases diagnoses the X-ray plate and says that the man has pneumoconiosis and then the pneumoconiosis medical board says that he does not? Surely, there is a great difference at times in the diagnosis even of X-ray plates by supposed specialists.
The hon. Lady will, I am sure, realise that it is unwise to establish a general rule from particular cases. If, however, she has a case in mind, I shall be glad to look into it.