HC Deb 27 April 1959 vol 604 cc888-90
49. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take to ensure the development by regional hospitals boards of facilities for the treatment of patients suffering from mental disorder on the lines indicated by the Mental Health Bill; and what special capital and maintenance allocations he will make available to boards for this purpose.

Mr. Walker-Smith

There are 150 Clauses and eight Schedules in the Mental Health Bill and the hon. Member's Question is cast in general terms. In general, developments in accordance with the principles underlying the Mental Health Bill and our approach to these problems, are already taking place in hospitals on an expanding basis, and more may be expected.

Mr. Robinson

Does not the Minister agree that if the Bill means anything at all it will inevitably mean a considerable expansion of the mental hospital services now in existence, and that he will not get that extension and expansion unless some special allocations are made for this purpose to regional hospital boards?

Mr. Walker-Smith

In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, as the hon. Member knows, one of the basic principles of the Royal Commission and a principle underlying this Bill is a shift of emphasis from institutional care to care in the community, so that will affect the amount of provision required by hospitals, but, of course, there is much more money available now for capital development in hospitals than there used to be, and about one-third of the regional boards' allocations go in the mental health field.

Dr. Summerskill

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is of little use giving publicity to the fact that directions will be given to local authorities regarding this matter unless local authorities and regional hospital boards also know how much money they will have to spend on this service?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The regional hospital boards make their own allocations to the mental health part of their programmes out of their steadily increasing total allocations. In regard to the local health authority field, the right hon. Lady knows the figures I have already given about the sum included in the general grant calculation for this purpose for the next two-year period.

Mrs. Braddock

While everybody is very happy that in the Bill the Minister has included most of the Royal Corn-mission's recommendations, is he aware that most of those recommendations depended upon the Commission's other recommendation that there should be a percentage grant to local authorities for a limited period, because this is a new and expanding service in local authorities and progress in it and in new development depends upon additional contributions from the Treasury?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, but that recommendation was made before the Local Government Act, 1958, in which the Government, for good reasons which are well known, adopted the principle of the general grant. I think that the best provision possible has been made within that context.

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