HC Deb 16 July 1985 vol 83 cc153-5
1. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people he estimates have or will come out of long-stay sub-normality hospitals under the care in the community policy in 1984, 1985 and 1986, respectively.

The Minister for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

There were 31,500 discharges of people from mental handicap hospitals and units during 1983, the latest year for which figures are available. However, 27,500 of the discharges followed periods in hospital of less than one month. Only 1,800 followed periods of two or more years and, within this figure, 760 patients had been in hospital for over 15 years. Figures for 1984 should be available in September. We cannot yet make estimates for future years.

Mr. Fisher

Will the Minister confirm that in many authorities the funds are not available to provide the full range of community care that is needed by those who have been in hospital for a long time? Will he speak to the Secretary of State for the Environment and ask for a 100 per cent. disregard for such funds, or will the Government continue to penalise local authorities which are trying to provide the services which these people so desperately need?

Mr. Clarke

Many of the services for discharged patients who have been long-term stayers in hospitals are provided by health authorities, which are substantially increasing their spending in this area. Local social service departments throughout the country have increased their spending on social services as a whole by 17 per cent. over and above inflation over the past five years, and many are making good progress. I do not believe that local authorities which are making a proper choice of priorities are inhibited from joining in the care in the community policy.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is widespread concern about the many children who continue to be admitted to long-stay sub-normality hospitals?

Mr. Clarke

I share my hon. Friend's concern. I am glad to say that the number of mentally handicapped children in hospital has dropped by 50 per cent. during the Government's period in office, but we would like to see them all out of hospital. That is why we have allocated so much money for that purpose. I hope that all admissions will stop soon.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will the Minister consider the problem that arises from the effect of tapering on joint funding in the discharge of long-term patients? Will he take into account especially the problems that are faced by Prestwich?

Mr. Clarke

The rules on disregarding joint finance for local government spending purposes have been eased slightly, but the joint finance was always intended to taper after the requisite period. We have given new powers so that health authorities can provide funds without any time limit where it is intended to move long-stay patients out of hospitals.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Will the Minister make himself fully and urgently aware of the compelling case put to the all-party disablement group about children in mental hospitals when Peggy Jay and her colleagues from Exodus came to address the group earlier this month? Is he aware that there are still 450 children in such hospitals and that four more have been added this year? If some regional health authorities can tackle the problem positively, why not all of them?

Mr. Clarke

I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) when I expressed the wish that all admissions could now cease. The fact that only four have taken place this year shows that we are near the end of the problem. The number of children in those long-stay wards dropped by over a half. We have provided money to enable health authorities to get the remainder out. I share the all-party group's aims, and I hope that we shall soon realise them.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Is the Minister aware that MIND on Merseyside has reached an agreement with the health authority by which the health authority will pay £14,000 a year for every person taken out of institutions in that area? If he believes that to be good practice, will he Commend it to other health authorities?

Mr. Clarke

Certainly, I shall. Almost all health authorities now have some variant of those arrangements. It is important that they should all have plans whereby they can obtain the better services required for those patients by paying the correct sum to other health authorities, if they are to take over the obligation, to local authorities or to voluntary bodies, including those such as MIND, which have a good record.