§ Mr. Patrick Thompson
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are the plans for the 3,500 patients and 4,000 staff at the five psychiatric and mental handicap hospitals near Epsom, to whom these plans have so far been made known; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Currie
[pursuant to her reply, 3 February 1987, c. 586]: At the ministerial review in December 1985 South West Thames regional health authority was charged with the task of presenting a report on the future of the cluster of mental handicap and illness hospitals in and around Epsom. This report, submitted by the region for ministerial approval on 31 December 1986, is due to be published in the near future. My hon. Friend the Minister for Health, in a letter on 9 February 1987 to Sir Antony Driver, chairman of the South West Thames regional health authority, paid tribute to the work put into the report and welcomed the possibilities it opens up for achieving a better life for a very large number of people.
The management of change from care in these three large mental illness hospitals and two large mental handicap hospitals to care in the community and in small units is acknowledged as the biggest task of its kind in the country.
Whilst staff employed at these institutions have, I understand, been aware of the impending changes over the past 18 months by the normal management machinery of meetings and bulletins, it was not until the steering group report was finalised that it was possible to provide members of staff with specific proposals of how, when and where those changes might take place. Early in January a detailed letter summarising the content of the report was issued to all staff accompanied by a letter from their district chairmen. The chairmen said in their covering letters that although much remains to be done to put the plans into effect, the completion of the strategy will give both management and staff a sense of direction and a clearer idea of the timescale. The regional health authority intends to keep staff involved and consulted as plans progress.