HC Deb 15 January 1985 vol 71 cc169-70
3. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on progress in establishing regional secure psychiatric units.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

By the end of 1984 seven permanent regional secure units were open. These will eventually provide a total of 264 places, of which about 120 are now staffed and available. In most units, the places are being brought into use in stages. Seven further permanent units providing in total a further 141 places were completed and undergoing commissioning. These units are expected to admit their first patients in the spring. In addition, two pemanent units providing a total of 128 places are under construction and are expected to be completed during 1985. Four further permanent RSUs, providing over 170 places, are at various planning stages.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Is it not an absolute disgrace and scandal that, over a decade after the Butler committee recommended the establishment of such units as an urgent national priority, regions such as Oxford, North-East Thames and the West Midlands still do not have units despite having received millions of pounds from the Government, and patients from their regions are detained unnecessarily and inappropriately in special hospitals and prisons? Will the Minister ensure that those regions establish units for mentally disordered patients?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Member has pressed me on this matter for some time and I have considerable sympathy for some of the points that he makes, but, with respect, his complaints are getting out of date. I have announced a programme which at least is achieving substantial success. We shall have 600 places by 1985. Recently I took up the matter of Oxford region at the regional review which I conducted with the chairman and officials of that region. We set them the priority task of coming back with plans to catch up with the rest.

Mr. Richard Alexander

May I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that his statement will receive a wide welcome from those who are interested in these matters. Is he aware that those who are working in the special hospitals are particularly concerned about the commitment of the Government to regional secure units? Will he consider further the possibility that if areas do not wish to have regional secure units in their communities they should be put into existing special hospital grounds?

Mr. Clarke

I agree with my hon. Friend that we should regard regional secure units as part of a range of treatment, ranging from the ordinary psychiatric hospital in the National Health Service, which should deal with many difficult patients who needs secure accommodation, all the way across to the special hospitals which deal with the most difficult patients. We are not laying down a blueprint for every region. They can adopt their own approach. However, all of them must have regional secure units as one part of a range of care, all of which is very important.