HC Deb 03 April 1978 vol 947 cc11-3
8. Mr. Nicholas Edwards

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will set up an inquiry into recent allegations concerning staff conduct at St. David's Hospital, Carmarthen; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Barry Jones

The Dyfed Area Health Authority is making inquiries into recent newspaper allegations of misconduct by staff at St. David's Hospital, Carmarthen. It has so far found no substance in these allegations. My right hon. and learned Friend cannot make a statement before the area health authority's inquiries have been completed, but I should like to take this opportunity to express my sympathy with staff of the hospital who understandably feel, as I do, that their collective reputation has been unfairly impugned by these anonymous imputations.

Mr. Edwards

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the recent story in the Daily Mirror, the hospital enjoys a high reputation, and that I and others have received representations from patients protesting at what they regard as a disreputable slur on the staff? Is he further aware that so far neither the journalist concerned nor anyone else has come forward with any evidence of any kind? Will the hon. Gentleman undertake that, when inquiries are complete, there will be a full report so that the public may be aware of whatever the true circumstances were?

Mr. Barry Jones

My right hon. and learned Friend will make a statement when he has had a report from the area health authority. I have great admiration for the work done by those who care for the mentally ill. But when allegations involving the wellbeing of patients are made, even though they are made anonymously, we have a responsibility to make sure that there is not abuse, and a thorough investigation provides the best possible answer to any unjustified slurs. I know that the staff of St. David's understand this. Indeed, I believe that they themselves requested the inquiry.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Daily Mirror, which alone published these allegations, has failed to produce any evidence to substantiate them, either to the police or to the health authorities? Does he agree that this kind of sensational and irresponsible journalism should be heavily condemned?

Mr. Barry Jones

The police were informed immediately of the report of the Daily Mirror because the allegations, if true, would have criminal implications. I understand that the information made available to them did not, in their view, justify further formal inquiries on their part as police. I would add that we are ready to give further help to this hospital this year. Planning work is going ahead for two new units, totalling 70 beds, in order to replace some of the poorest accommodation. That will entail expenditure of over £500,000.