§ 8. Mr. Rooker
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the level of physiotherapy support available from the National Health Service to special schools for handicapped children in Birmingham.
§ Mrs. Currie
Yes. The provision of physiotherapy services to special schools is the responsibility of the local health authorities in co-operation with the local education authorities. It is for them together to decide on the appropriate level of physiotherapy services.
§ Mr. Rooker
I am surprised that the Minister is satisfied, given the amount of concern that has been expressed by parents at the Wilson Stuart special school in my constituency. That school caters for children from at least six constituencies. Is the Minister satisfied that the differences between health authorities in the city of Birmingham can lead to the position where the Wilson Stuart school in West Birmingham health authority has 140 handicapped pupils with two physiotherapists and two who are rotational, whereas at Bray's special school, which is covered by South Birmingham health authority, 110 pupils, who have almost the same type of disability, have the services of 4½ full-time physiotherapists? The Minister cannot be satisfied with such discrimination against the pupils from the six constituencies in north Birmingham.
§ Mrs. Currie
The Wilson Stuart school, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, was affected by a shortage of paediatric physiotherapists at the end of last year, but is currently up to establishment. The number of physiotherapists who are employed by the Birmingham health authorities has jumped from 268 in 1982 to 302 this year. The biggest increase has been in West Birmingham health authority, which covers the hon. Gentleman's constituency.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
Is the Minister aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), has exemplified, by reference to Birmingham, a problem which grievously affects handicapped children all over Britain? Is she further aware that giving the right help in the right place at the right time can make all the difference between enabling a handicapped child to live an independent life and living a life of dependence and preventible disability? Will she consider this problem more urgently and accept that we would like a fuller statement at an early date?
§ Mrs. Currie
I accept much of what the right hon. Gentleman has rightly said. The number of physiotherapists who are employed in the Health Service has climbed rapidly from about 7,000 when he was a member of the Government to about 11,000 now. Perhaps that will help to answer his question.