HC Deb 09 July 1924 vol 175 cc2257-8

asked the Minister of Health what schemes are in contemplation for the building of new asylums and other mental institutions; in view of the declaration in 1922 of a surplus of 18,000 beds, will he explain why such extension is necessary; and whether it is the intention of the Board of Control to offer this increased accommodation to uncertified cases for the purpose of retaining them under their own authority instead of encouraging the provision of hospitals apart from lunacy, and run by the health committees of local authorities for the benefit of slight and non-dangerous cases, where they could recover without risk of stigma?


Only one scheme for the building of a new mental hospital is in contemplation, but further accommodation will be needed in the near future. The figure of 18,000 beds was an estimate made at the end of 1920; but, for various reasons, certain schemes then foreshadowed were not proceeded with. On the 1st January in the present year there were, in fact, only 4,754 vacant beds. As the average annual increase of certified patients during the last two years has been at the rate of 3,265, it is obvious that further provision is necessary. The question whether provision should be made for the early treatment of eases of mental disorder without certification is one of the principal matters referred to the Royal Commission recently appointed.


Is it intended that these incipient cases should come under the Lunacy Board or under the Health Committee?


I must await the advice of the Royal Commission.


also asked the Minister of Health if his attention has been called to the remarks of Lord Justice Scrutton, on the occasion of the appeal against Harnett, in regard to the necessity for a thorough examination into the grounds on which an alleged lunatic is imprisoned as well as the desirability that he should at certain intervals during detention have the opportunity of demanding an independent investigation into his case; and, in the interests of justice to the public, will he take steps to institute a court of appeal for those imprisoned in asylums, after the analogy of the court of appeal provided for other classes of prisoners?


The points raised in this question come within the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Lunacy and Mental Disorder, which has just been appointed; and any action in the matter should, I think, be deferred until the Royal Commission has reported.