§ 2.34 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what research has been undertaken in the last two years, or is being currently undertaken, into the problems of autistic and psychotic children.]
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, research into the problems of autistic and psychotic children is being carried out within larger, and continuing, programmes of work on mental disorders undertaken mainly in departments of child psychiatry and child health at teaching hospitals and at other hospitals where children are treated. Child guidance clinics also make valuable contributions to the study of these problems. The Medical Research Council are not engaged in research on these specific conditions, but one of their new units is investigating the rôle of the environment in producing mental illness and behaviour disorders in children. Their larger programme of research on mental sub-normality and schizophrenia may also throw light on these problems.
The following Medical Research Council units carry out research on mental subnormality and on schizophrenia: the Social Psychiatry Research Unit, the Psychiatric Genetics Research Unit, the Neuropsychiatric Research Unit and the Unit for Research on the Chemical Pathology of Mental Disorders. A new 764 unit has recently been established to study the environmental factors affecting mental and physical health in childhood. Work on childhood psychosis is carried out at a number of universities, including Glasgow University and London University, and at hospitals in the National Health Service, and the work of child guidance clinics makes a valuable contribution to knowledge of mental illness in children. The Mental Health Research Fund also support work on childhood psychosis.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that long Answer, may I ask whether he is aware that perhaps the picture is not quite so rosy as one might have gathered from the long list of institutions which he mentioned; that these children, although few in numbers, are very tragic indeed? Also, is the noble Viscount aware that these mental illnesses are very good ground for research because they occur when environment has had little chance to play its part? Therefore, they are very suitable for biochemical and genetic study. Could the Medical Research Council look at this question and see what more can be done with profit in this particular sphere?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I am sure that if the noble Lord, who has his own means of approaching them, desires to put any specific ideas before the Medical Research Council, they would entertain them most carefully.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, can the noble Viscount say the extent to which in this matter the Medical Research Council link up with the very few but important child psychotic units which we have attached to mental hospitals?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I think the Medical Research Council survey the whole field very fully.