HC Deb 19 July 1977 vol 935 cc1369-72
13. Mr. Ogden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the total annual National Health Service revenue expenditure on services for the mentally ill for the North-Western Regional Health Authority for the years 1967 to 1977.

Mr. Moyle

Expenditure in 1975–76 was about £25 million, of which about £11 million was incurred in the single-specialty hospitals for the mentally ill. Similar information for 1976–77 is not yet available. Information in this form is not available for earlier years but I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) on 25th May 1976 to my hon. Friend, which, however, relates exclusively to the single-specialty hospitals.

Mr. Ogden

In general terms, does my hon. Friend consider that there is a fair allocation for the mental health services in the North-West as compared with other parts of the Health Service in the North-West and as between the North-West as an area and other areas? Will he continue to use his influence in the North-West and other areas to ensure that there is consultation at all levels before any possible changes in the Health Services take place? May we have consultation before final decisions rather than after final decisions have been taken?

Mr. Moyle

Prior consultation before decision-making is built into the system of the reorganised Health Service and I hope that it will work. Mental health and mental illness are two of the highest priorities in future planning of the health services because they have been subject to so much neglect in the past throughout the country and particularly in the North-West. The North-West has had the highest allocation of funds of any region in the Health Service for the current year. Therefore, I would expect slightly larger amounts of money to be available for the mental illness services in the North-West than has been the case.

Mrs. Chalker

Now that more mental health patients are leaving hospital for care in the community, what action are the hon. Gentleman and his Department prepared to take to ensure that funds are transferred from the health services into the community so that patients do not fail, as at present, immediately they are left on their own in the community?

Mr. Moyle

It will be some time before we can provide the social service provision for the receipt of the mentally ill outside hospitals that we should like to see. We have set up a scheme of joint financing whereby this year £21 million is available from health funds for the social service departments of local authorities for provision for mental handicap and mental illness, among other categories. In the North-West this allocation is £1.85 million.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that insufficient expenditure on this Cinderella of services has led to most deplorable under-staffing in the mental hospitals that serve my area? In addition, the services outside the hospitals are woefully neglected in Preston. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is false economy for money not to be spent on these services?

Mr. Moyle

As I have said, the nation as a whole, through the National Health Service, has neglected the specialties of mental illness over the years. Obviously it will take some considerable time to catch up. There is a new hospital coming on stream at Preston. I hope that it will make a contribution towards alleviating the situation. Bids can be made for joint finance money for the social services.

14. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the services for mentally sick in the constituency of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and the region generally.

Mr. Moyle

Services for the mentally ill in my hon. Friend's constituency and the West Midlands generally are based largely on old hospitals serving wide catchment areas, with patchy community services. They are typical of the situation in most of the country, and reshaping them to the pattern envisaged in our White Paper "Better Services for the Mentally Ill" is a major priority.

Mr. Ashley

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of concern in my region and throughout the country about the neglect of mental illness and the after-care service of which he has spoken? Will he supplement his present efforts by issuing as soon as possible a major consultative document and, if necessary, a White Paper on the Government's future policy?

Mr. Moyle

As a result of consultations on priorities for the Health Service, we are preparing a definitive paper that will set out the definitive priorities for the Health Service for the future. As for my hon. Friend's constituency, it is hoped to provide a new day hospital in Stoke in the next few years. On the social services side, a home for psycho-geriatric patients is planned under joint finance arrangements and there are plans for a new psychiatric after-care hostel in Hanley.

Mr. Moonman

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the all-party Mental Health Committee daily receives letters of anxiety from many people who are concerned about the lack of facilities and the lack of opportunity for local authorities to provide day centres? Will he consider the possibility of improving the whole of the service by means of a new Mental Health Act? Would such a measure be likely to be delayed?

Mr. Moyle

My hon. Friend can be reassured that we have been reviewing the Mental Health Act 1959. My right hon. Friend will shortly be issuing a statement about the results of the review. I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no delay. I appreciate that he must be receiving many letters and expressions of concern about services for the mentally ill. We are trying to make up in a few years for a situation which has been created over the past 30 years or more.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I return to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker). Is it not the case that, although many mental hospitals now have only one-half or one-third of the number of patients they had 10 or 15 years ago, there does not appear to have been any comparable transfer of resources from the health authorities to the local authorities, which are now faced with the consequences of trying to look after the patients in the community? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the joint financing arrangements, which are fairly limited, are not an adequate way of dealing with these issues? What we need is a more effective transfer of resources to recognise the number of patients now in the community.

Mr. Moyle

The last thing that I would argue is that joint financing arrangements are the sole answer to the problem of which the right hon. Gentleman is talking. However, I do not accept his figures in respect of mental hospitals. Throughout the country the situation varies from hospital to hospital. It should be said—here I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman—that there has been a substantial development of local authority social service provision throughout the country, especially since the Seebohm Report of the late 1960s. That should be taken into account as well.