National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 1975.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Grant Mr Anthony Grant , Harrow Central 12:00 am, 21st November 1975

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley), I believe that it is absolutely right for the House to draw attention to the disgraceful performance of Government supporters during this debate. Throughout the whole debate, which is, after all, on the Queen's Speech and proposals for the forthcoming Session on the burning issue of the National Health Service and the health of the nation, there has been one five-minute speech by a Labour back bencher. For nearly the whole of the time Labour Members have been notable only by their absence. This is deplorable and should be recorded as such.

I should like to come back to the main theme of the debate—the National Health Service and the problems within it. It is about the health of the nation, and that is absolutely fundamental. In my view, it overrides all other considerations. It is no good talking about employment, industry, education, or a whole range of other matters, if we are not to have a physically fit society.

I have always believed in the principle of the National Health Service and I have always supported it, but I have been deeply disturbed by the way in which it has developed over the past few months under this Government. I agree with about one sentence only of the Secretary of State's speech. That was when she said that her real concern was with the people who worked in the Service. That is absolutely right, for it is the people working in the system who are vital.

We all know of the importance of nurses, porters and everybody else, but without the doctors and the consultants the National Health Service might as well not exist. These are the people who have spent years of training, years of arduous work acquiring their undoubted expertise. They compare with any other group of doctors anywhere else in the world. But they must be free to develop their talents and to apply them in the best way they can in order to render the best service to the community.

I should like specifically in this context to refer to a hospital on the edge of my constituency—the Northwick Park Hospital and Clinical Research Centre. This is one of the newest and one of the finest hospitals in the United Kingdom, if not in the whole of Europe. It was opened only a few years ago by Her Majesty the Queen, and it is quite rightly described as the showpiece of the National Health Service. Many of my constituents and, indeed, people from surrounding areas have reason to be grateful. Many of them owe their lives to this magnificent hospital and to the dedication and skill of the people who staff it. But I must tell the House that morale in this great hospital has been damaged—I hope not irrevocably but very seriously—by the conduct of affairs by the Secretary of State over the last few months.