HC Deb 25 May 1976 vol 912 cc253-4
7. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will issue further guidance to National Health Service hospitals about the administration of electro-convulsive therapy to patients, in the light of the Inskip Report on St. Augustine's Hospital, Canterbury.

Mr. Ennals

The South East Thames Regional Health Authority has referred to me the report's valuable discussion of the use of this treatment and of various considerations relating to the patient's consent, and my Department is considering the policy issues raised. Meanwhile, I have asked that copies of the report be sent to all health authorities and districts in England.

Mr. Price

Will my right hon. Friend read item 67 in the report, which refers to a case in which an elderly female was carried against her will, and without being examined by her doctor, into electroconvulsive therapy, and died a few days' later? This sort of incident is an absolute scandal to the National Health Service. When is the Minister going to take up his predecessor's promise to visit St. Augustine's Hospital?

Mr. Ennals

I agree that there are some very disturbing elements in the report, and item 67 is one of them. It is important to consider the question of consent. An inter-departmental review on the Mental Health Act 1959 is going on at present, and this is one of the issues that is under consideration. I am going to St. Augustine's Hospital tomorrow.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is not the real message of the Inskip Report on St. Augustine's the absence of any overall and effective medical control of patients? Should not the Secretary of State devote maximum attention to this point?

Mr. Ennals

I must refrain from comments relating to St. Augustine's, because I am visiting there tomorrow. I may have comments to make after my visit.

Mr. Crouch

Will the Secretary of State not rely merely on the Inskip Report on St. Augustine's—which, incidentally, is in my constituency—but consider also the study to be made by the 13 regions of the country on this sort of problem? I urge him to take a wider view of electroconvulsive therapy, based on a study taken over the whole country.

Mr. Ennals

As far as ECT is concerned, the Inskip Report said: It is probably the most effective treatment for moderate or severe depressive illness, and is still one of the most effective methods of treating many forms of schizophrenia". but those using it must consider whether the expected benefits out weigh the risks and disadvantages. I shall, of course, consider all the points of view on this subject. I should add that when I was a Member of Parliament for Dover I was very much aware of the benefits obtained from the services of St. Augustine's Hospital.