Vacant Wards

Oral Answers to Questions — Hospitals – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland 12:00 am, 6th July 1964

asked the Minister of Health how many hospital wards are at present standing empty; and for what reasons.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I regret that this information is not available. Wards can be temporarily out of use for a variety of reasons, including redecoration, quarantine, and staff illness.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

Can they not also be out of use because there are not enough nurses available or money available sometimes to open new wards—because the scheme is postponed for money reasons? Does he not think that it would be a good idea to call for returns about vacant wards, so that the public may know what is going on in the hospital service?

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

The hon. Gentleman is not only behind in this respect as he was before, but completely wrong. Hospital nursing and midwifery staffs are now at record levels. The point is that statistics by wards have never been collected, for the obvious reason that there can be many kinds and sizes of wards. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have been aware that hospital statistical returns all give a total number of staffed beds available, irrespective of actual use. The information that the hon. Member requests could be obtained only by special census, and neither my right hon. Friend nor I consider that the work involved would justify it.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

Is it not the fact that the official returns to the Department used to include in the figure for staffed beds the beds that were unavailable through lack of staff, and that this figure is no longer given? If so, why?

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

If I heard him aright, the hon. Gentleman has referred to beds, in which case he is quite correct, but the question refers to wards—[Interruption.] No, the hon. Gentlemen is on a perfectly fair point, but it is a different point. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) referred to a statistic that would be utterly and completely worthless.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

On a point of order. The Parliamentary Secretary has accused me of not being up to date. May I say that, in all fairness, he should recollect that I raised this Question three years ago?