Women's Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:31 pm on 10th June 1988.

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Photo of Miss Emma Nicholson Miss Emma Nicholson , Torridge and West Devon 1:31 pm, 10th June 1988

Thank you for calling me to speak in this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am becoming a little worried about the health of the non-lady Members of the House who are not with us today. I am sure that they are grossly damaging their health with fatty lunches in pubs. I am sorry that they are not here to hear some very interesting speeches.

When I learnt of today's debate, I cancelled my constituency engagement with the Tavistock under-fives group this afternoon. The mothers asked me to raise a number of points on their behalf, but most of them have already been most capably raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mrs. Shephard). However, one point that she did not raise—unless I missed it—is a crucial issue on which I intend to touch lightly, and that is the need for more women doctors. This is no sexist or feminist comment because it is of particular importance to the Moslem community.

Although I understand that the Koran does not literally forbid women to consult male doctors, by custom and habit many of the older women do not do that and their health is therefore significantly undermined. They may have potentially life-threatening conditions, that actually result in death, because they cannot consult a male doctor. Therefore, the provision of more women doctors is of acute importance to society.

The key to good health in our society lies in greater stress on preventive medicine. I want to talk a little about how preventive medicine is currently practised in the United Kingdom and how it could be improved. The most dramatic aspect of preventive medicine is immunisation, which can change the whole pattern of public health. It is, therefore, good news that the World Health Organisation has withdrawn its opposition to immunisation, which it once viewed as achievable only at the expense of building up the necessary infrastructures for health care.