HC Deb 06 May 1958 vol 587 cc1007-8
9. Miss Herbison

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland which sanatoria the regional hospital boards in Scotland have decided to close; and what use they intend to make of them.

Mr. J. N. Browne

In the light of the improved tuberculosis position, regional hospital boards are now considering the future use of those sanatoria which are no longer required for their present purpose. When the necessary local consultations have been completed, my right hon. Friend hopes to make a comprehensive statement on the subject.

Miss Herbison

When giving consideration to these matters, will the Secretary of State make certain that any sanatorium that might become vacant will be used for such purposes as the care of the old people, rather than sending them to mental institutions, or for care of those mentally defective children for whom, at present, there is no institution at all?

Mr. Browne

This is primarily a matter for the boards to decide. They must decide how the resources which are becoming available in terms of staff, finance and buildings can best be used in the future. I appreciate the hon. Lady's concern, which, I think, is shared by all of us. In the present financial situation, it seems likely that boards may find it necessary to place at least some of these sanatoria on a care-and-maintenance basis for the time being.

Miss Herbison

But, surely, would it not be dreadful to place any of them on a care-and-maintenance basis, when so many old people are spending their last few weeks in mental institutions and so many of our children in Scotland badly need institutional care?

Mr. Browne

The hon. Lady will realise, I think, that for the aged sick small and isolated hospitals are not always so suitable as beds associated with the general hospital, with all its facilities, which may also become available.

Sir J. Henderson-Stewart

May I support the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) in making a plea for the provision, wherever possible, and even for short periods and on a temporary basis, of some kind of accommodation for old people, who greatly need it at this time?

Mr. T. Fraser

And may I plead with the Joint Under-Secretary to bear in mind that a few years ago, when there was great need for accommodation for tuberculosis sufferers, arrangements were made to have them treated in Switzerland? There is no longer that need, nor is there the same need for so much accommodation for those suffering from tuberculosis in Scotland, but there is need for hospital accommodation for many other categories, and for these old people, particularly those who are handicapped in some measure. If that be the case, surely it is for the Secretary of State to take the initiative in seeing that the available accommodation is properly used, rather than to leave the matter to the hospital boards, who might well be limited by finance?

Mr. Browne

I have no wish to be obstructive or unsympathetic in this matter, but as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is a matter for the regional boards in the first place. As I have said, my right hon. Friend hopes to make a comprehensive statement on the subject in the fairly near future.