HL Deb 04 May 1961 vol 230 cc1359-61

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government. in the event of an application for admission to a hospital being made under Section 25 or Section 26 or Section 29 of the Mental Health Act, 1959, what are the rights of a hospital to refuse to admit such a patient; and upon whom does the obligation lie to make the arrangements required by subsection (3) of Section 60 of the Act, and what are the rights of a hospital to decline to be the hospital specified in an order under Section 60 of the Act.]


My Lords, the Mental Health Act does not define the duties of hospitals in regard to the admission of patients. But Regional Hospital Boards have been asked to ensure that, whatever the admission procedure, psychiatric emergencies are admitted immediately, and that patients requiring treatment less urgently are admitted with due regard to the accommodation available and to their need for admission. My right honourable friend the Minister of Health, has indicated that it is for one of the two doctors whose evidence is needed for the purposes of Section 60 to make the arrangements required by subsection (3) of that section.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. I should like to ask whether he is satisfied that these arrangements are working smoothly in particular, that there is no delay in the admission of patients; and that there is, no danger of patients being, so to speak, "hawked around" from one hospital to another in an attempt to gain admission. As regards Section 60, can he assure the House that a court cannot find itself in the position of being unable to make a hospital order simply because no hospital can be found which is willing to accept the patient?


My Lords, perhaps I may reply first to the last of the noble Baroness's supplementary questions. There could be circumstances in which a hospital could not be found to take a patient who the court thought should be ordered Ito go into hospital under Section 60. But my right honourable friend knows of only one case in which there has been difficulty, and that is the case of Peter David Hastings, of which the noble Baroness perhaps has knowledge. He was imprisoned; but within a few weeks after that he was, in fact, transferred to a special hospital. That is the only case of difficulty of which my right honourable friend is aware. In reply to the noble Baroness's earlier question, so far as I know these arrangements are working smoothly and satisfactorily.


My Lords, could the noble Lord say when the instructions were issued to the Regional Boards?—because I 'think there has been a little difficulty over some of these acute admissions, and it may have been cleared up since.


These instructions were issued just before the Mental Health Act came into force, in the memorandum of guidance which was issued to all hospital authorities on the working of the Act. If my noble friend knows of any cases of difficulty, I shall be very glad to look into them.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that the difficulty that has occurred arises from the phrasing he himself has used: urgency and less urgency? Differences of opinion, even in the medical profession, arise on the question of "less urgency".


My Lords, I imagine that there are differences of opinion within the medical profession, as within any other profession. But it was a deliberate provision in the Act that the order of admission should be determined by need, and not by the type of admission procedure: because a patient who is willing to go into a mental hospital as an informal patient may well be in more urgent need of treatment than another patient in respect of whom compulsory powers have been used.