§ 4. Mr. Harry Greenway
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many beds have been closed in psychiatric hospitals over the past 10 years, with the effect of releasing how many patients into the community; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mr. Bowis
The average number of beds available daily for mentally ill people fell from 85,000 to 50,000 between 1981 and 1993–92. It is not known how many patients have been discharged into the community over that period. Our policy is to enable people with mental health problems to be able to be supported in their own homes for as long as that is desirable and possible, while recognising that there will always be people who require hospital care—some of it long stay.
§ Mr. Greenway
My interest is my constituency of Ealing, North. My concern is that people should not be put back into the community from psychiatric institutions without proper preparation for that and without proper housing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Of course, that applies to some Labour Members. Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that no one will be discharged or put back into society without proper preparation? That is damaging to the individual when it happens and most worrying to neighbours and/or members of the community where it happens.
§ Mr. Bowis
My hon. Friend's notable battles on behalf of Ealing undoubtedly led partly to the opening last year of the new £10 million mental health unit by the Ealing health authority. I assure my hon. Friend that our policy is that no one will be forced to leave a mental health institution unless and until the community is ready to receive him or her. We have the care programme approach in place that ensures that community services, including treatment and housing, are ready to receive an individual and that a key worker is in place to guide that person. I hope that my hon. Friend will be satisfied with that assurance.
Mr. Robert Hughes
Is not the Minister shocked by the appalling ignorance of his Department in not knowing how many people have left mental hospitals and gone into the community? Since the Department does not know how many people have left, how can it know what sort of monitoring and care exists for those who have left? It is a disgraceful answer. I hope that the Minister will look at the matter seriously because it is of grave concern to people all over the country.
§ Mr. Bowis
I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands what a discharge is—a discharge is not necessarily a person leaving a hospital once and for all., The number of discharges does not relate to the number of people because some people go into hospital more than once. The statistics are there for local use and local planning. The important point is that locally the district health authority will ensure that people do not leave hospital unless and until there are facilities in the community to receive them.