asked the Minister of Health how many institutions exist under his control specifically for the accommodation of permanent invalids in early and middle life; and what is the capacity of those institutions.
Two separate establishments with 54 beds are now in process of conversion to this use. Five other special sections of larger hospitals provide 109 beds, and three more units with 72 beds are in various stages of preparation.
Does not my hon. Friend recognise that there is still in this respect a gap in the Service, and will the Minister continue his efforts to close the gap?
While appreciating the remarks of my hon. Friend, I must say that I am sure he will recognise that the number of hospital patients in this group is not large—possibly between 400 and 500 spread throughout the whole country. It is very difficult to place them because it is necessary, we feel, to accommodate them within a reasonable distance of visiting relatives. It is, therefore, our policy to foster the development of smaller groups in hospitals.