§ 25 and 26. Mr. D. Howell
asked the Minister of Health (1) what conclusions he has reached following his investiga 24 tions into mental hospitals in the area of the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board; and what new action he proposes to take to improve the position
(2) what is the present deficiency of beds in mental hospitals in the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board area; and what additional beds will be available when the board's present known projects have been completed.
§ Mr. Turton
The present deficiency due to overcrowding is 2,153 beds. But this includes 576 beds which are at present occupied by mental defectives. Projects now in hand or under consideration will make available 920 additional mental hospital beds, and a major project for additional beds for mental defectives will enable the regional hospital board to remove mental defectives from mental hospitals. A new mental hospital is also proposed.
My visit confirmed my impression of the need for additional accommodation and for improvement in the standard of accommodation. Special allocations have been made to the Board of £80,000 for 1956–57 and £150,000 for 1957–58 for the modernisation and improvement of mental and mental deficiency hospitals.
§ Mr. Howell
That information will be particularly well received in the Midlands, but does the Minister realise that the proposed new hospital will mostly be in replacement of St. George's at Stafford, which is already in a state of collapse, and that the best figures available to Members of Parliament show that in eight or nine years' time, if the increased incidence of mental illness continues, there will be no more beds available than there are now for people in this category? In view of the increase of accommodation, which we are pleased to note, may I ask the Minister to continue to keep a close watch on the position, especially of overcrowding?
§ Mr. Turton
I will, certainly. I will continue to give very close attention to this very difficult problem. But I think that the hon. Gentleman is taking rather too gloomy a view of the future. As I have said earlier to one of his hon. Friends, a great number of the patients in these hospitals are patients who could be accommodated in chronic sick hospitals. That is one of my additional problems. Also, I hope that in future 25 we shall be able to treat more of these patients outside hospitals and prevent them ever having to come in. I ask the hon. Gentleman not to take too gloomy a view.
§ Mr. Shurmer
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much of this overcrowding is caused by old people in mental hospitals who should be in half-way houses? While we appreciate the reconsideration of the allowance for two more old people's homes in Birmingham, may I ask the Minister to consider giving the local authorities the opportunity to open more of these homes? More beds will be available if we can keep the old people out of the mental hospitals.
§ Mr. Turton
I do not want to enter into an argument about the relative merits of half-way houses and old people's hostels. There is a difference of opinion there between the Guillebaud Report and the Phillips Report. What I did notice when I went round the hospitals was the very large number of old patients who, in my judgment, could have been accommodated in chronic sick wards. I do not think that they were the kind of patients who could be accommodated in the old peoples' hostels.