Lords Amendment: In page 88, line 38, at end insert:
It shall be the duty of every Regional Hospital Board to give notice to every local health authority for an area wholly or partly comprised within the area of the Board specifying the hospital or hospitals administered by the Board in which arrangements are from time to time in force for the reception, in case of special urgency, of patients requiring treatment for mental disorder.
§ This Amendment is designed to, and does, I think, in fact, meet some points that were raised by hon. Friends of mine in Committee and, indeed, have also been raised in another place. The effect of this new Clause will be to ensure that local health authorities know which hospitals in their area are prepared to accept patients at short notice, or even 1712 without notice, in cases of acute emergency, a matter which I know was in the minds of hon. Members who participated in our debates in Committee.
§ It will do that in this way. It will, in effect, require regional hospital boards to notify the local health authorities which hospitals have what one might call—I do not think it is an actual term of art—psychiatric beds ready to admit patients in a real emergency. The information, of course, will also be given to general practitioners who might arrange an emergency admission with the agreement of the relatives but without having to call in a mental welfare officer. This we can arrange administratively.
§ The discussions which we had about this matter took place in the context of Part IV of the Bill, and one of the difficulties about the Amendments which we then discussed was that they were linked to the compulsory procedures in that part of the Bill and therefore raised the possible difficulty that they might be used as a means of getting priority of admission.
§ We have overcome that difficulty, as the House will see, by the place which we have given the Clause in the Bill. It is in Part IX and not in Part IV, so that the arrangements made by this Clause will apply to any patient who needs admission in specially urgent circumstances whether he is admitted as a compulsory patient under Part IV or whether he is admitted in the ordinary way as an informal patient.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
This new Clause meets substantially a point which I raised on Second Reading. I was answered then by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General who argued very convincingly that this power was not needed in statutory form and that the object, which he agreed was desirable, could be met by Ministerial circular. The right hon. and learned Gentleman convinced me that that was the best way of dealing with the matter, and, consequently, I did not return to the attack at any subsequent stage of the Bill. But one of my noble Friends in another place was not so satisfied and pressed the matter further. The Lord Chancellor, in his usual accommodating 1713 way, has met my noble Friend by producing this new Clause. I think that I am reconvinced that this is now the best way of dealing with the matter.
The wording of the Clause gives rise to one possible difficulty. It is a rather narrow point. I imagine that the Minister envisages, at any rate for the present, that regional hospital boards will maintain for convenience, though not in any statutory form, catchment areas of their existing hospitals. This Clause says:It shall be the duty of every Regional Hospital Board to give notice to every local health authority for an area wholly or partly comprised within the area of the Board specifying the hospital or hospitals administered by the Board in which arrangements are from time to time in force for the reception, in case of special urgency, of patients requiring treatment for mental disorder.In London, certain regional hospital boards have to receive patients from local health authority areas in their region in hospitals in another region which they do not administer. I see certain slight difficulties arising out of this if a regional hospital board cannot say anything to a medical officer of health whose area consists of part of that board's region because the hospital that has been taking patients in that region is administered by another board and is in another part of the Metropolitan Area.
I would suggest to the Minister a very simple way out of the difficulty. It is to see that such hospitals are in future administered extra-territorially, so to speak, by the regional hospital board from whose region the patients are supplied.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
With the leave of the House, I will answer the hon. Gentleman in one sentence. I am grateful for his suggestion, but I do not think that it would be necessary to enter into such a comprehensive or sweeping revision in order to deal with the difficulty, if there be one, under this procedure. After all, it would be quite possible to get one regional hospital board to transmit the information at the behest of another, and I do not think that any mechanical difficulties should arise.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.