HC Deb 16 July 1953 vol 517 cc2237-9
31. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Health the principles of the rules and regulations governing the employment either by institutions under his control or by outside employers, of certified mental defectives or of persons certified as of unsound mind, with special reference to wages, conditions of work and deductions for maintenance or bad discipline.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The conditions of employment and payment of these patients are not governed by rules and regulations but are laid down by the responsible hospital authorities on the advice of the medical staff according to the individual patient's abilities and needs, and are subject to inspection by the Board of Control. Deductions from wages for the cost of maintenance of hospital patients working outside are calculated in accordance with advice I have given to the authorities, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. Member.

Mr. Snow

While I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, may I ask whether he is aware that in certain cases patients' pocket money may be deducted for minor breaches of discipline? Is he aware, further, that the progressive treatment of persons certified as of unsound mind may depend upon additional increments to their wages and that when a top maximum wage is imposed in certain cases by certain authorities it has a negative effect upon the patient?

Mr. Macleod

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the fundamental principle which ought to underly this employment is that it should have essential therapeutic value for the patient himself. If there are any cases of abuse in whatever form—although this is essentially a matter which is left to hospital authorities—I should be very glad if hon. Members would give me details of where they think the arrangements are being unfairly applied.

33. Mr. Driberg

asked the Minister of Health if he will make renewed efforts to find suitable accommodation for a mentally deficient girl, aged 16, about whom the Parliamentary Secretary wrote to the hon. Member for Maldon on 24th June; if he is aware of the difficulties caused by the presence of this girl in the home of her father and stepmother, who have two young sons; and what reasons for refusing this patient were given by the managers of an institution outside the hospital service with which the North-East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board has contractual relations.

Mr. Iain Macleod

As the hon. Member has already been informed, the regional board, which is aware of all the circumstances, has done and will continue to do everything possible to find a vacancy. Admission could not be arranged to this institution because the patient was of a type which it is not authorised to admit.

Mr. Driberg

Could the Minister explain the last part of his answer in a little more detail? Is he aware that this unfortunate child was dumped upon her stepmother by a most unfair trick on the part of the child's mother, who is divorced from the father and disclaims all responsibility for her? Can nothing be done to ease this intolerable domestic situation?

Mr. Macleod

I am aware of the sad circumstances of this case. Matters of priority are essentially, and rightly, dealt with by the regional board. Question No. 37 on the Order Paper has a considerable bearing on this matter. As to the first part of the supplementary question, for obvious reasons I would rather not give medical details across the Floor of the House, although I will speak to the hon. Member about them later.