HL Deb 30 March 1987 vol 486 cc353-4
Lord Ennals

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have yet taken a decision about the future of the Tavistock Institute and Clinic, and the Portman Clinic.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Baroness Trumpington)

My Lords, let me make it clear that there is no threat to the future of either clinic. I very much regret that despite a variety of exchanges between the parties concerned we have not yet reached agreement on a long-term solution. However, the Government expect to make a positive response to the recommendations of the Seymour report very soon. The Tavistock Institute is an independent charitable organisation which is not part of the National Health Service.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, will the Minister and the House accept that I warmly welcome her first sentence? However, since the report, which recommended that there should be a special health authority for those two institutions, has been on the Minister's desk for over 18 months, will she further accept that the uncertainty is creating disturbance in the institutes both as regards their morale and in terms of recruitment? Does she agree that those two institutions are of world excellence and that the uncertainty ought to be removed as soon as possible?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the Government attach great importance to the work of those clinics. Let there be no mistake about that. With regard to a special health authority, I am aware that the clinics' representatives have argued for it, but I am sure your Lordships will understand that I cannot comment on that suggestion until the Government have announced their decisions on the future management and funding of the clinics.

Baroness Faithful!

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister fully appreciate the enormous value for the training of both social workers and those in the health service that is provided by the Tavistock Clinic, particularly in the field of mental health?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, with regard to my noble friend's question, the Seymour Committee noted that the Tavistock Clinic employed no nurses and had no programme of training in psycho-therapy for nurses working in mental health. Its report recommends that the clinic should discuss with the English national board how it can extend its contribution to nurse training.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, has not the Seymour Committee recommended stable funding and supportive management for those two valuable clinics, and have the Government any proposal in regard to those two matters that may be made sooner rather than later?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, while the report recommended certain additional activities, such as the courses for some nurses, it suggested that the posts that are needed should be created by redeploying posts between disciplines. Other tasks such as the creation of links with the university will require considerable work but will entail no significant financial links.

Lord Rea

My Lords, does the Minister realise what a very important international role is played by both the clinics and the institute? I have had some very useful professional collaboration with the Tavistock Clinic—the "Tavi" as we all know it—and the work that has been done there for 20 years. I also have friends who work in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other countries who have trained there. Does the Minister feel that the work done there is of such importance that the problem about its future should be settled quickly?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, we are doing our best to settle the problem. The Government certainly attach importance to the clinics' work. I think that the Minister's initiative in setting up the Seymour Committee to advise on the clinics' role demonstrates the Government's concern for their work.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, is the Minister aware that while I welcome the Minister's initiative, the fact that this issue has now been with the Minister for more than 18 months does not imply the sense of urgency that I think is required? Does she agree that this situation is very disturbing, and will she bring the exchanges in this House to the attention of the Minister responsible?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, since receiving the Seymour Report, the Government have sought the views of those involved with the clinics. We have also had a number of meetings, including some with representatives of the clinics. I believe that we shall be able to make an announcement very soon. Although obviously there is no threat to the future of the clinics, I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, that uncertainty over their future role should be ended as soon as possible.

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