§ Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what information he has on the number of hospitals that are unable to offer overnight beds for mothers of sick young children;
(2) if he is satisfied that all hospitals allow and encourage unrestricted visiting for parents of children in hospitals, including on operation day;
(3) if he will reissue guidance to hospital authorities on policy concerning the visiting of sick children in hospitals by all parents; and if he will make a statement on this policy.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
It is departmental policy that there should be unrestricted visiting for parents of children in hospital and that provision should also be made for mothers to stay in hospital with their young children where they wish to do so. Information is not held centrally on the number of hospitals unable to offer overnight beds but I should expect all district general hospitals and children's hospitals by now to do so.
Comprehensive guidance has been given to health authorities in the Department's circular HM(71)22 "Hospital facilities for Children" and additional guidance on visiting and overnight stay was given in circular HC(78)28 "Children in Hospital". In additionn the report on children in hospital by the Consumers Association published in June 1980 was commended to the notice of health authorities, and on that occasion my hon. Friend the then Under-Secretary of State reaffirmed the guidance to health authorities set out in the circulars mentioned. As he said thenWhat is needed now is not fresh guidance from the Department, but renewed efforts by health authorities to identify where further improvements are needed, and to initiate discussions with the doctors and nurses concerned on how to bring them about".
The Department's film "They're Children—They're Different", devised mainly for hospital staff working at ward level, seeks to give visual expression to departmental policy and to promote an awareness of children's special needs. It continues in great demand in both 16 mm and videocassette form.
I also mention in this connection the valuable role played both nationally and at local level by the National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital, in bringing the visiting needs for children to the notice of health authorities, the professions and the general public.