HC Deb 09 December 1963 vol 686 cc14-5
30. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health what further efforts are being made in the treatment of alcoholism as a chronic disease; how many institutions or special wards are specifically devoted to this purpose, in particular in the London area; approximately how many patients are thus receiving treatment; and what is the percentage of recoveries.

Mr. Barber

The facilities provided by hospital boards and other bodies are being expanded. Ten special units are specifically devoted to this purpose, of which three are in the London area. About 150 patients are receiving treatment at the present time. Comprehensive figures about recoveries are not available.

Mr. Sorensen

Would not the Minister agree the t this is quite an inadequate service for this type of disease, as disease it is recognised to be? Would he not agree that there are only two major institutions dealing with this disease at present? In those circumstances, will not he secure some special inquiry into the whole question of alcoholism—if possible, with the co-operation of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Mr. Barber

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is really justified in those strictures, because four of these units have been established this year and another nine are under consideration. Of course, many of these types of patients are admitted to hospitals without special units, but it is interesting to note that the number of hospital admissions for alcoholism and alcohol psychosis has increased from 775 in 1953 to about 2,760 in 1961. Of course, to some extent, this is due to the increased willingness of people to receive treatment.

Mr. K. Robinson

Would not the Minister agree that the units in operation, and planned, are still only sufficient to scratch the surface of the problem, which is very extensive? Would he not also agree that many hospital authorities would like to start these units if they were not limited, under the edict of his predecessor, to 2 per cent. development per annum; and that the greatest service he could do would be to be a little more generous with revenue expenditure in the coming year?

Mr. Barber

I do not know about that, but I am sure that it is right to continue the practice applied by my predecessor, and other Ministers of Health before me, of leaving it to the boards themselves to decide the priorities. Therefore, it must remain for each hospital authority to decide, bearing in mind the other great needs of the hospital service, what preference they should give to alcoholics.