HC Deb 31 October 1955 vol 545 cc657-60
40 and 41. Mrs. Braddock

asked the Minister of Health (1) if he is aware that 13 mental defectives of the highest urgency have been waiting over five years for accommodation, six over four years, 12 over three years, 18 over two years, 15 over one year, nine over six months and 15 up to six months, in Liverpool and that this situation is causing concern to the local authority and relatives of the cases; and what steps are being taken by the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board to meet the emergency;

(2) if he is aware that the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board and the Liverpool local authority have agreed that there is an emergency regarding the number of certified mental defectives of the highest urgency awaiting accommodation in places of safety; and, in view of this, if he will send a departmental official to the next meeting of the joint committee, and so expedite the obtaining of accommodation.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I share the general concern at this urgent need, and action is already in progress. Quite apart from permanent additional beds already being built or planned, which total 1,800 for the Liverpool-Manchester area, steps are being taken to use the Olive Mount Homes; and Heswall School is being considered. My officers conferred with officers of the board on Friday last to see whether any other urgent action is possible, but I have not of course yet had time to learn the result.

Mrs. Braddock

In view of the fact that these two Questions have been answered together, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the length of my supplementary question will be regarded as two supplementaries.

Is the Minister aware that his statement is not quite correct? The Olive Mount Homes have been practically refused for use by the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board. Is he aware also that these Questions are on the Order Paper because the local authority is just about at its wits' end regarding the position and contemplates taking drastic action? Is he also aware that that contemplated drastic action is the submission of these cases to the magistrates in the courts for committal to accommodation under the control of the regional board so that there can be no objection to the regional board having to take them?

There is a serious emergency, and the Liverpool local authority is so concerned that damage might be done by one of these defectives at home that something drastic has to be done in this emergency.

Mr. Macleod

As far as Olive Mount is concerned, I am informed that that scheme has been approved in principle, and I now await detailed proposals from the board. In view of what the hon. Lady says, I will check up on that immediately after Question Time.

As far as the need is concerned, I do not dispute it; I have shown that. Indeed, priority is being given to this region in front of any other region and it is there that the first mental deficiency hospital is already being built. As far as the proposals are concerned, as I have said officers of my Department attended a meeting last Friday, and I will see the results of that as soon as I can.

Mr. Collick

Is the Minister aware that this is really an exceedingly serious problem affecting the whole of the Merseyside boroughs? Can he not give some indication as to when the more urgent of these cases can be given accommodation?

Mr. Macleod

I have said how serious it was and that I was putting this first of all the projects in all regions. I could not conceivably give it higher priority than that. As far as the provision of beds is concerned, this year 40 have already been provided, another 40 will be provided by the end of the year, 100 will be provided next year, and then we will be getting the full number of beds from Greaves Hall, which will make the major contribution to overcoming the difficulty.

42. Mrs. Braddock

asked the Minister of Health if he will confer with the Home Secretary to arrange that the Heswall Nautical School, which is closing, can be transferred to the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board to meet the emergency of the acute shortage of hospital beds for highest urgency mental defective cases in Liverpool.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The possibility of using the school to accommodate mental defectives is already under consideration by the board.

Mrs. Braddock

Is the Minister aware that we know about the statement he made previously concerning the long-term projects in relation to accommodation but that it is the immediate problem with which we are concerned? Will he see that this nautical school, which is just being closed and which, I am given to understand, would be admirable for the purpose, can be used almost immediately so that we can be certain that these cases do not wait another three years before they get accommodation?

Mr. Macleod

The school is to close for its present purpose in February, 1956. I am now awaiting the proposals of the regional hospital board and will deal with them as soon as I get them.