§ 13. Mr. Rooker
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make regulations to allow the initial assessment for mobility allowance to be carried out by the claimant's family doctor.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
The independent medical practitioners on whose advice the insurance officer makes the initial decision, are, in fact, normally family doctors who live near the claimant's home. The aim of concentrating the work of initial assessment on some 1,000 selected general practitioners is to build up expertise and to achieve consistency of assessment between cases. It is, of course, open to any claimant to put in supporting evidence from his own doctor if he wishes to do so.
§ Mr. Rooker
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he accept that the claimant's own family doctor is no less independent than any other family GP, and is more often aware of the difficulties of the claimant? Would it be in order for the claimant, when he makes application for mobility allowance, to make a request for his family GP to make the assessment? How many people are presently in receipt of the mobility allowance?
§ Mr. Morris
I am aware that what my hon. Friend suggests will be supported by many others. At the same time, many family doctors would not welcome being asked to make any obligatory or definitive judgment on their patients' entitlement to mobility allowance as that could well put a strain on doctor-patient relationships. I am glad to have in mind 964 what my hon. Friend has said, and I shall consider any case that is of concern to him. Over 72,500 claims for mobility allowances have now been accepted.
§ Mr. Crouch
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that any movement and any step that he can take to involve the GP in a greater and larger responsibility for health care and decision making will relieve the pressure on more expensive facilities in hospitals, for example? Will he remind his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of that point?
§ Mr. Morris
I am well aware of the importance of community care and of the importance of the general practitioner in that context. As I said in my original reply, the family doctor can have an important place in the process for claiming the mobility allowance. I shall have in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I hope that he will appreciate that we have placed a high premium on community care since we have been in power.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
Is my hon. Friend aware how much the mobility allowance and the proposed Motability scheme is appreciated by the disabled? It will give many of them the independence that they have not had in the past. Is he also aware that, because of the help that has been given by the Government, more and more of the disabled are contemplating buying a car but are finding it extremely difficult to get driving lessons in an adapted car before they make this extremely important decision? It seems that private enterprise driving schools are not meeting the need. I appeal to the Government to do what they can.
§ Mr. Morris
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He may like to know that we are in the process of increasing fivefold our expenditure on outdoor mobility help for the disabled in driving instruction. My hon. Friend has been in touch with me about a certain case and he has done a great deal to draw attention to the importance of adequate driving instruction for disabled drivers. I know that Motability is now aware of the points that he has made. I shall keep in close touch with any developments.
§ Mrs. Chalker
Is it not true that the British School of Motoring has already offered to Motability some specialised 965 help to ensure that all those who can avail themselves of a car through Motability will have the driving instruction? Is that not worth while?
§ Mr. Morris
Motability is in touch with the British School of Motoring. I am familiar with what the British School of Motoring wants to do. It is not for me to make any announcement for Motability, but I know that the hon. Lady, with her colleagues and my colleagues, is keeping in close touch with developments in this area.