HC Deb 19 May 1969 vol 784 cc10-1
43. Dame Joan Vickers

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services in view of the fact that there are a number of old people in mental hospitals who have no need of this type of attention, what action he is taking together with the local authorities to provide more hostels in order to help to relieve the overcrowding in this type of hospital.

Mr. Crossman

I accept that there are old people at present in mental hospitals who might leave if accommodation elsewhere was available, together with the necessary support from day hospitals and other services. But no precise estimate of their number is possible. Loan sanctions totalling £14 million were given to local authorities in the financial year 1968–69 for building welfare homes for old people including the elderly mentally infirm, and I hope the total will be more this year and will continue to grow.

Dame Joan Vickers

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that Answer. Will he make a further survey so that we know the exact number? I am sure that he will agree that it would be a tragedy for any old people to remain in this undesirable environment taking up beds needed for people who really should have this type of treatment?

Mr. Crossman

It is not a question of keeping an exact number. The particular clinical diagnosis whether an old person needs to be in hospital is a matter for the individual doctor. We know that there is a large number who never should have been put there. But that does not mean that we can take them out tomorrow, because they may have been institutionalised. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to give a precise number.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The Minister mentioned financial help for these hospitals. Does he recollect that he was going to do something for the South Ockenden Hospital? Will he say how much of the £3½ million that he has promised will go to the mental hospitals will go to this particular hospital?

Mr. Crossman

It is too early to say, because the team that I sent in to give me a Report on the South Ockenden Hospital has not yet reported. But I will answer my hon. Friend directly I hear from the team.