§ 11. Mr. Canavan
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the standards of care for mentally handicapped people in hospitals and in the community.
§ Mr. John MacKay
The Government have made it clear to health boards, which have the primary responsibility for services for the mentally handicapped, that those services should be given greater priority. There have recently been significant improvements, but much still remains to be done, and we are monitoring developments.
§ Mr. Canavan
Does the Minister agree that the vast majority of staff at hospitals such as the Royal Scottish National hospital in my constituency are very dedicated to their patients, but the main problem is that there are not enough staff? In view of the problems arising from staff shortages, as highlighted in the recent television coverage and also in the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland report, will the Minister give a commitment that he will give enough resources to the Forth Valley health board area to employ the 600 extra nurses required to bring the RSNH up to the Telford standard, and also the £12 million necessary to implement the health board's longterm strategy of moving towards maximum community care, while at the same time improving hospital provision for patients who, unfortunately, will require hospital care probably for the rest of their lives?
§ Mr. McKay
I am happy to associate myself with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the dedicated work of the staff who work in hospitals such as the RSNH. Over the past four years we have managed to increase the number of nursing staff in that hospital by about 200. At the same time, we have managed to reduce the number of patients, so we are making progress. On 10 June officials in my Department met the board and discussed the future plans for the hospital, which, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, involve scaling down the size of the hospital so that it becomes a much more manageable institution, and, I believe, a better one.