Hospital Patients, Highlands and Islands (Travelling Expenses)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th July 1964.

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Photo of Sir John Macleod Sir John Macleod , Ross and Cromarty 12:00 am, 29th July 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the difficulties experienced by patients in many parts of the Highlands and Islands because of the heavy expenses they incur travelling to hospital; what action he now proposes to take; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

Yes, Sir. Following recommendations on this subject by the Advisory Committee on Health Services in the Highlands and Islands and by the Scottish Health Services Council, I have decided to introduce a scheme under which travelling expenses necessarily incurred by hospital patients living in the seven crofting counties in excess of the first £1 for each visit, will be refunded by the hospital service, in cases where the patient has had to travel more than 30 miles to hospital or his journey has included five miles or more by sea. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will be making similar arrangements for patients from the Isles of Scilly.

Photo of Sir John Macleod Sir John Macleod , Ross and Cromarty

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this statement will be received with great relief that at long last my right hon. Friend has decided to take this step? Since he will be alleviating many hardships, may I take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the people who will welcome his reply?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

All hon. Members who represent Highland constituencies know what a big problem this is and I am pleased to have been of help in solving it.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Although a long-ovedue amelioration, this will be none the less welcome. Can the Secretary of State say, first, whether a patient must spend a night or a considerable period away from home before being able to claim anything and, secondly, will this apply to all cases, walking as well as ambulance cases? Will it apply to dental and all cases coming within the Health Service or will it be in any way limited?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

To answer the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question first, it will not be limited but will apply to all cases in the Health Service. In addition, in cases where a patient has, for good reason, to be attended by somebody, that persons' expenses will be paid, too. I am afraid that we cannot include any subsistence allowance in this because this is not possible under the Health Service Act concerned.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

I was thinking not so much of those travelling to hospital but of patients travelling to, say, the dentist. Will it apply to them?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I do not think that travelling to an ordinary dentist would bring a person into the scheme.