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General Hospital, Epping (Mental Cases)

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 26 May 1949

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asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that there are three low grade defective children in St. Margaret's General Hospital, Epping; that they are confined to bed in the wards of the aged and chronic sick patients; that they have been there for many years; and what steps he proposes taking to remove these children to more appropriate surroundings in accordance with the spirit of the Children Act.

I am aware that there are three low grade mentally defective children in this hospital, and the hon. Member may be assured they will be removed as soon as alternative accommodation is available.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether any steps are being taken to extend and expand the accommodation for children of this type? There are many thousands of them in the country in their own homes, but where they are in hospital they are actually taking up the care of nurses which ought to be devoted in another direction?

I quite agree that this is a serious problem which, of course, accumulated during the war as a consequence of the fact that there was no new building, and I am taking urgent measures to try to deal with it.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report which the relevant authority has just sent up saying that it may be eight or ten years at the present rate before all these defectives are accommodated, and will he take note of the proposal in that report that temporary accommodation should be built at once?

I do not know what report my hon. Friend is referring to, but it sounds very pessimistic.

May I ask the Minister how many low grade mental defectives there are on the Front Bench?

In view of the fact that these three children have been, respectively, seven, seven and four years in this hospital, could my right hon. Friend make them a very early charge on his attention?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that owing to a shortage of accommodation for mentally defective children and mentally defective people, frequently these mentally defectives have to be certified by doctors when they are not really deserving of certification, because they can get into a home or shelter only if they are certified.

I would be loath to believe that children are certified who ought not to be merely in order to get accommodation. That is a very serious statement to make.