HC Deb 07 December 1959 vol 615 cc25-6
25. Mr. Holland

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the inconvenience caused to hospital staff and patients by delays in the arrival of ambulances from the centralised county service; and if he will allocate one or two house ambulances to each hospital to supplement the existing service and so help to reduce those delays.

Mr. Walker-Smith

My information is that such delays are very infrequent. The responsibility for providing an adequate ambulance service lies with the local health authority, which is best able to decide how vehicles should be deployed in consultation with the hospitals concerned.

Mr. Holland

While I appreciate that hospitals are not likely to complain to the Ministry every time an ambulance is delayed, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider my suggestion again if I furnish him with evidence in writing that these delays do occur and cause inconvenience?

Mr. Walker-Smith

My hon. Friend must not underestimate the capacity of people to complain to the Minister if they think that anything is wrong. In fact, four instances of delay in Middlesex have been brought to the attention of myself and my predecessors in the last four years, but, as these are four cases out of 750,000 patients carried per annum, it is not a large number. Of course, I will consider any specific matters which my hon. Friend cares to bring to my notice.

Mr. K. Robinson

Is the Minister aware that the kind of difficulty referred to in the Question is fairly widespread throughout the country and arises from the control of ambulance services by local authorities? Will he give consideration to the possibility of transferring these services at a future date to hospital authorities who make the greater part of the use of these services?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this has been the pattern of the service since its inception. It may not have worked perfectly—very few things do in this imperfect world—but, on balance, I would have thought that it had worked well. I will certainly give further consideration to the points raised by the hon. Member and by my hon. Friend.