HC Deb 10 January 1978 vol 941 cc1427-8
10. Mr. Shepherd

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the arrangements for handicapped children in National Health Service hospitals.

Mr. Ennals

Despite improvements in recent years, there is still considerable variation in the quality of services, and I attach high priority to bringing services in all hospitals up to the standards of the best.

Though the number of mentally handicapped children in hospital has significantly decreased, I am concerned that some children are still being admitted for long periods in hospital because there are not adequate facilities in the community. I am asking health and social services authorities to agree jointly at local level on the earliest possible dates by which sufficient facilities will be provided to make such admissions no longer necessary.

Mr. Shepherd

Is the Minister aware that long-stay emotionally disturbed children are quite frequently to be found in adult wards? Does he agree with the Director of the Health Advisory Service that all children in hospital should be grouped together under one administration? If so, what steps is he taking to promote this concept?

Mr. Ennals

I was answering a Question about services for the mentally handicapped. The hon. Gentleman referred to children with emotional disturbance. Just before Christmas, I discussed with the Health Advisory Service and its special team precisely the problem to which the hon. Gentleman referred. There are considerable improvements that we need to introduce in the facilities for emotionally disturbed children in our hospitals.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will my right hon. Friend take care to make quite sure that, if handicapped children have been in hospital, when they are returned home they are returned to adequate, well-provided homes?

Mr. Ennals

I agree with my hon. Friend that this is very important. This is why we place great emphasis on the support that social services can give to families in their homes. When severely disabled children are returned home, it is also important wherever possible that they have opportunities for returning to hospital for short periods in order to give assistance and relief to their families.

Dr. Vaughan

The Question refers to all handicapped children. What advice has the Minister given on steps to preserve life in very severely handicapped newly-born children—for example, in spina bifida cases?

Mr. Ennals

That is not a question that I am prepared, without notice to answer in the House.