HC Deb 18 July 1974 vol 877 cc225-7W
Mr. Torney

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she is yet in a position to issue guidance on security in NHS psychiatric hospitals to which she referred in her reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) on 7th May.

Mrs. Castle

I am issuing the circular of guidance to regional health authorities to which I referred in my reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) on 7th May—[Vol. 873, c.73]—and this is accompanied by the revised report of an internal departmental working party as well as by the Interim Report of the Butler Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders, the publication of which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is announcing to the House today.

A copy of the Circular HSC(IS)61 and the reports has been placed in the Library.

I accept the recommendation of both reports that urgent action should be taken to establish in each health region, secure psychiatric units for patients who cannot be satisfactorily treated in an open hospital but who do not need the degree of security provided by a special hospital. We shall begin by providing a total of 1,000 places and if the need is confirmed by experience will build up, as and when resources permit, to the 2,000 places recommended by the Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders.

In commending to regional health authorities the advice I have received I am stressing the importance of early establishment of these units and I am also asking them to make suitable interim arrangements for treating patients in conditions of security until such time as the new units can be provided. I have made it clear in the circular that the Department is prepared, as the Butler Committee recommends, to make a direct supplementary financial allocation to regions for the setting up of these units.

I recognise, of course, that finance is not the only constraint; trained manpower to staff such units is equally essential and is in scarce supply. Despite the urgency of the need for provision, implementation must, of course, take realistic account of the staffing situation. The circular which I am issuing will ensure that regional authorities have a clear understanding of the Government's policy and will provide the basis for discussions with the regional authorities of the practical problems of implementation.

I accept the Butler Committee comments on the overcrowded conditions at Broadmoor Hospital; I am grateful to the committee for the tribute paid to the staff there and add by own acknowledgement of the work and loyalty of all disciplines and grades. In spite of trying conditions it has been possible through their efforts to develop active therapeutic programmes while maintaining a high level of security.

We shall remedy the overcrowding at Broadmoor as soon as possible. Work is nearing completion on the advance unit of the new special hospital—Park Lane—to be established at Maghull near Liverpool. It will admit up to 30 patients by October this year, with a further 40 being added by January next. A further 58 beds in new buildings at Ramp-ton Hospital are being commissioned next month and we are studying the practicability of using some of these beds to help in reducing overcrowding at Broad-moor, together with other measures to give interim relief.

Planning of the main Park Lane special hospital is also now at an advanced stage: some of the ancillary accommodation is being built and work on the actual hospital is due to start next spring. This new hospital is to provide places for 180 patients by the end of 1977, with a further 220 to be added some two years later.