HL Deb 08 June 1967 vol 283 cc522-4

3.18 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many hospitals now provide accommodation exclusively for children who are mentally handicapped; what is the total number of beds available, and what increase in their number is planned during the next ten years.]


My Lords, in England and Wales there are 29 hospital units providing in-patient treatment exclusively for mentally ill or seriously maladjusted children, and one unit where children and adolescents are accommodated together. There are 525 places in these units. In addition, there are beds in general children's hospitals or departments in which psychiatric treatment is given to those children who do not require the special facilities of a children's psychiatric unit. There are also out-patient facilities for children and a number of day hospitals for the treatment of children who are able to remain outside hospital for part of their time. The plans which Boards have already made in their hospital building programmes, will, when implemented, provide nearly 550 more beds in children's psychiatric units. In addition, there are plans to provide psychiatric treatment for some children in children's departments of district general hospitals, and to increase day hospital facilities.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, I would ask him whether he is aware that many parents are still being told that they will have to wait three or four years before their children can be admitted into hospital? Could not the Government take rather more energetic measures to try to prevent the necessity for such disappointing statements?


My Lords, I am not aware of the actual length of time that some children may have to wait, but it is true that there is a shortage of accommodation of this kind for the mentally handicapped child. Even if the programme to which I have referred is completed, there will still be some shortage of accommodation. However, I would point out that it is not simply a question of accommodation. If we could get more child psychiatrists they would be able to do more in the preventive field, this would relieve the pressure upon accommodation.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say what is being done to provide adequate nursing facilities for these children, as many hospitals, particularly outside London, are short of suitable nursing staff?


My Lords, I think this is possibly a wider question and one that is bound up with the recruitment of nurses.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware of this large body of medical opinion which feels that it is a bad thing that mentally handicapped children should be segregated? May I hope that his Answer did not imply that these children are being kept on their own?


My Lords, I will certainly look into this point. I am not aware of what the noble Lord says. What I certainly feel—and I think he will agree—is that what we really need is more preventive work. That is why I place emphasis on the provision of more child psychiatrists, who could work in the field, probably making it unnecessary for some of these children to become in-patients at all.