HC Deb 23 June 1960 vol 625 cc741-3

Amendment made: In page 18, line 14, leave out "Board" and insert "Commission".—[Mr. Maclay.]

Mr. Galbraith

I beg to move, in page 18, line 17, at the end to insert: (3) Where a patient has been admitted or received as aforesaid, it shall be the duty of the responsible medical officer to examine the patient, or to obtain from another medical practitioner a report on the condition of the patient, within the period of seven days ending on the twenty-eighth day after his admission or reception, as the case may be; and, if the responsible medical officer does not discharge the patient, he shall so inform the Mental Welfare Commission, the nearest relative of the patient and the board of management or, as the case may be, the local health authority concerned. This Amendment has the effect that where a patient has been admitted to hospital or received into guardianship in pursuance of an application under Part IV of the Bill, the responsible medical officer is required, firstly, to examine the patient, or to obtain a report on his condition from another doctor, with the week ending on the 28th day from the patient's admission into hospital or reception into guardianship. Secondly, if, in consequence, he does not discharge the patient, the responsible medical officer is required to inform the Mental Welfare Commission, the patient's nearest relative, and the board of management or the local health authority concerned in guardianship cases.

This Amendment fulfils an undertaking that I gave in the Standing Committee to look into the point of a special kind of review at the end of 28 days, and I trust that it may meet with the approval of the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon).

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I must say that I very much like what has almost become the incantation "this is to meet" and so on, but what I am anxious about is this. When in the Standing Committee I referred to what I called the 28-day concession, the Joint Under-Secretary constantly reminded me of the limited nature of this concession, and I was never quite sure what he had conceded. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), who proposed the original Amendment, who finished by saying that he would perform the great act of faith and trust the Tories.

As I say, I was never quite sure of the exact nature of the concession, and because of the hon. Gentleman's interventions I was not sure whether it went very far. I should like him to tell me whether by writing into the Measure what is now proposed this will become an operative provision, in the sense that it will not simply become an administrative mechanism that is ignored, and is simply a sop to Parliament.

This provision is probably the equivalent of the Section in the English Act providing for observation. When it comes to the question of transference of patients, a point on which the then Solicitor-General for Scotland was involved in the Committee, it might be possible for a patient held during the observation period under the English Act to be transferred from an English to a Scottish hospital. I suppose that this wording will meet the legal complexities of that situation, but I do not know—I merely seek information.

In other words, to use that unfortunate phrase—though I myself do not think it so unfortunate—about a gift horse: what kind of horse is it? Is it true that it meets the legal position of the English provision regarding transference? Is it intended to be an active provision, and that, in fact, the detaining officer or the responsible medical officer concerned will do this job, and that it is not thought that administratively—and I do not lay the accusation too heavily—the provision is dead even before it is written into the Statute?

I do not ask these questions simply as a form of welcome to the tabling of the Amendment, but because there are those who, like myself, feel that this is a very important matter. One of the biggest advances in the English Act related to this question of observation, and it would be a great pity if it were to be relegated administratively into the idea that it was a passive provision that rarely came to light. I should like to see it very much to the fore in the minds of responsible medical officers everywhere.

Mr. Galbraith

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman need have any fear as to the quality of this particular gift horse. When we discussed the matter in Committee I was, perhaps, not as forthcoming as I might have been, but when we looked into the subject afterwards I saw what the hon. Gentleman was getting at. We therefore put this provision into the Bill with the intention that it should not be a sop administratively but that it should meet the English position, and that there should be a proper review at this period.

Indeed, the fact that there is to be a proper review is indicated by the requirement that the Mental Welfare Commission has to be informed if the responsible medical officer decides not to discharge the patient. The hon. Gentleman can therefore be assured that this is a definite increase in the machinery which is designed, as he wanted, to safeguard the liberty of the patient.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 18, line 38, leave out "Board" and insert "Commission".—[Mr. Galbraith.]