HC Deb 13 June 1972 vol 838 cc1243-4
12. Mr. Luce

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what studies he has undertaken concerning the provision of alternative care within the community for patients who no longer need mental hospital treatment.

Sir K. Joseph

Following earlier studies in this country and abroad, my Department is now supporting two large, and several smaller, development projects. The aim is to establish to what extent and in what manner the mentally ill or handicapped can be looked after in the community rather than in hospital.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that. Will he accept that there are a great many people who on discharge from hospitals need gradual adjustment to modern society and that there are inadequate facilities for the purpose? Will my right hon. Friend consider expanding the number of hostels or half-way houses for the purpose?

Sir K. Joseph

There are grossly inadequate facilities for these and many other related purposes. We are just beginning to realise how much we have to provide. The ten-year plans that I shall be asking local authorities to produce, so that they may be published, in the near future will, I hope, reveal how much local authorities are proposing to expand the present services.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise the great urgency of this matter, as there are thousands of patients in mental hospitals who have no medical need for long-stay institutional treatment? When will the right hon. Gentleman produce the plan for psycho-geriatric patients which has been awaited for some time, since they comprise 44 per cent, of the total number of patients in mental hospitals?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Lady knows that during all the years since the Mental Health Act, 1959, there have been tens of thousands of patients in mental illness and mentally handicapped hospitals who were not detained under the Act but who were there only because there were no other facilities. The hon. Lady's Government did nothing. For the first time, this Government are trying to expand the services so that those people may come out. Surely we have shown that we take this matter seriously. The circular on psycho-geriatric advice will be coming out later this year. I am consulting authorities about it at the moment.