HC Deb 25 April 1989 vol 151 cc799-800
11. Mr. Ashley

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received regarding the numbers of mentally ill and mentally handicapped people who, after being discharged from hospital, subsequently became homeless.

Mr. Freeman

We have received representations from voluntary bodies and individuals about the level of support available to patients discharged from hospital, some of these expressing concern that such patients risk becoming homeless.

Mr. Ashley

Has the Minister read the report "Slipping through the Net" by the National Schizophrenia Fellowship? Is he aware that it is a terrible condemnation of the Government that schizophrenics and other mentally ill and mentally handicapped people are so deprived of community care that they end up on the streets, in prisons or in coffins? Does he accept that the only answer is first, to stop closing the hospitals and secondly, to provide adequate resources for these very desperate people?

Mr. Freeman

I have read the report that the right hon. Gentleman cites and I can make it quite plain that no mental illness hospital should or will close unless there are adequate facilities in the community for the care of those who have been discharged from hospital, or have not been in hospital. Next week, we shall be issuing guidelines to district health authorities as to how they are to put in place by 1991 adequate community care facilities for the mentally ill.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

In associating myself entirely with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) I must tell my hon. Friend that his remarks are totally untrue. Many mentally ill or mentally handicapped people are homeless or in prison because psychiatric hospitals and hospitals for the mentally handicapped have been closed prematurely without adequate accommodation and trained personnel in the community to look after them. Will he ensure that no further psychiatric hospitals close?

Mr. Freeman

Perhaps my hon. Friend did not catch what I said in reply to the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley). I repeat that we endorse the policy which has been in place for 30 years of moving those who are mentally ill from the large, isolated Victorian asylums to proper facilities in the community. I agree with my hon. Friend that the challenge is to provide proper community care facilities.