HC Deb 21 March 1960 vol 620 cc27-8
39. Dr. D. Johnson

asked the Minister of Health what guidance in regard to the unlocking of locked wards the inspectors of the Board of Control give to committees of mental hospitals consequent on their visits; and whether, in view of the fact that there are still hospitals which maintain a preponderance of locked wards despite the general acceptance of the principle of the open ward in the treatement of mental patients, he will make a statement.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Commissioners of the Board of Control give such advice as they consider appropriate, bearing in mind that this is a matter for decision according to the circumstances of each hospital. Acceptance of the value of the open ward is now widespread.

Dr. Johnson

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there are some members of hospital committees who would welcome more guidance than they are at present getting? Would he draw this matter to the attention of the Board of Control?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I think the guidance which has been given is quite clear. The Commissioners to the Board of Control are always available to give advice to hospitals on this matter, and they will gladly do so.

Mr. K. Robinson

Is the Minister not aware that this country led the world in the open-door system in mental hospitals? Does he not think it is perfectly reasonable for any hospital to be able safely and profitably to open the doors of at least 80 per cent. of its wards? Therefore, would he use his influence to try to persuade the minority of backward hospitals to progress faster with this system?

Mr. Walker-Smith

A special inquiry which was instituted in 1957 showed that nearly two-thirds of the total wards were unlocked by day at that time. I have not the up-to-date statistics, but I have no doubt, knowing what the trend is, that the proportion would be larger today.