§ 1. Mr. Cyril Bence
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take respecting the care of the aged and infirm.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)
This very wide subject is dealt with in the annual reports of the Department of Health for Scotland. The report for the year 1951 will be published on 1st April and copies will be available in the Vote Office. If the hon. Member wishes further information on particular points, perhaps he will let me know.
Yes, Sir. But having regard to the matter of building labour and materials, local authorities have not, in general, been remiss in their duty under the National Assistance Act to provide homes for old people.
§ 20. Mr. James Carmichael
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made during the year 1951 by the Scottish local authorities in the provision of homes for the aged; and to what extent the number of aged persons awaiting such accommodation is being progressively reduced.
During 1951, 10 homes for old people were opened by local authorities and five have so far been opened this year. The 15 homes provide places for 307 persons.
§ Mr. Carmichael
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to deal with the last part of the Question, which asks to what extent the number of aged persons awaiting such accommodation is being gradually reduced, and, at the same time, whether he has any information as to local authorities neglecting these particular responsibilities?
It is very difficult to gauge the number of persons waiting for residential accommodation, but it is obvious that the waiting list is being reduced. For instance, 29 additional premises have been acquired, and most of them are being adapted at the present time. Almost weekly, new homes are being opened for aged people.
§ Mr. Carmichael
While I appreciate that many local authorities are actively engaged in this work, might I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he is convinced that all local authorities are taking these responsibilities very seriously, or whether a number of authorities are neglecting those responsibilities?
That is rather a different question, but at the moment I have no reason to suppose that local authorities generally are neglecting their duties. They are doing very well.
Certification cannot be avoided where treatment in a mental hospital is necessary but the patient does not agree to enter voluntarily. Any other arrangement would require legislation.
§ Mr. Bence
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that if this process goes on of certifying very aged people as insane, when they are in fact senile, it will not be many generations before all the children of the working classes will have insanity in their family records, and that this is quite a dangerous policy?
I am sure the hon. Member will understand the difficulty. Senile people are often incapable of expressing themselves as willing or unwilling to receive mental treatment, and thus are unable to be accepted as voluntary patients.
I have already informed the hon. Member that such a course would require legislation.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann
Would not the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider that this is a very great hardship on the children and grandchildren of old people? Would it not be possible merely to have senility certificates? If that is not possible, would he consider introducing some legislation to put the matter right in future? The trouble is bound to grow owing to increased longevity.
§ Mr. John Wheatley
Can we have a categorical answer to whether or not Her Majesty's Government intend to introduce legislation to remove this evil?
§ Mr. William Ross
Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of what is happening? These people are not receiving mental treatment. Is he not aware that the solution lies in his answer to a previous Question, of which he seems blithely ignorant, that there are local authorities who are neglecting their responsibility to provide homes for these people and who are using this practice to put old people away?
I said I was not aware that local authorities are not having regard to the need to provide these old people's homes. Apart from that, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the party which he represents in this House had six years in which to do this work.
§ 26. Mrs. Alice Cullen
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many chronic and aged sick in Glasgow are awaiting hospital accommodation; and how many have been on the waiting list more than six months.
There are 708 chronic and aged sick patients in Glasgow awaiting hospital admission at present, of whom 303 have been on the waiting list for more than six months.
§ Mrs. Cullen
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that not a day passes in Glasgow without an old person being found dying or dead in a lonely home for lack of accommodation where he or she could be looked after? Will he consider this matter seriously? Is he aware that I visited the home of an old lady on the Clyde on Saturday and found that nobody had entered the place for three days and during that time the old lady had not had a cup of tea?
At present the Western Regional Board have plans to utilise Shieldhall Infectious Diseases Hospital and the Schaw Convalescent Home, Bearsden, for chronic and aged sick, and that process will continue.