HC Deb 27 April 1976 vol 910 cc78-9W
41. Mr. Crouch

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he has to strengthen the Hospital Advisory Service.

Mr. Ennals

As my hon. Friend told the House in reply to the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) on 31st March—[Vol. 908, c. 1307]—we have, after consultation, decided to change the remit and functions of the Hospital Advisory Service. A circular outlining these changes has been sent today to health and local authorities and a copy has been placed in the Library.

In the reorganised NHS, the limitation of their work to hospitals is manifestly unsatisfactory and their remit is now being extended so that it also includes the community health services and the links between hospital and community services. To mark this change, the advisory service will in future be called the Health Advisory Service (HAS).

In addition, the HAS will in future collaborate with the Department's Social Work Service (SWS) by establishing joint visiting teams who can review in a comprehensive way the complementary services provided by the health service and the social service departments of local authorities.

At the moment, the client groups covered by the advisory service are the mentally ill and elderly. The new joint teams will continue to look at these groups and a further joint teams will be established to look at provision for children receiving long-term care in hospital. I am concerned that the interests of the mentally handicapped including mentally handicapped children should be safeguarded, and arrangements for visiting are being discussed with the National Development Group for the Mentally Handicapped.

The changes I have described do not change the existing relationship of the HAS to the Secretary of State for Social Services or the relationship of SWS to the rest of the Department or to local authorities. Reports of visits will continue to be sent to the Secretary of State. However, in future the HAS and SWS will be responsible for the follow-up of their joint reports. They will do this either by making inquiries of the health and local authorities on any matters which have not been settled or by a follow-up visit. If after this they remain concerned about any outstanding matters, they will be expected to exercise their right of access to Ministers. A summary of the recommendations relating to health matters included in reports will go to the appropriate community health councils.