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Old Persons (Mental Hospitals)

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 18 May 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how far it is the practice, when there is a shortage of beds in general hospitals, for old persons to be given accommodation in mental hospitals; and to what extent they are required to be certified on refusing, in these circumstances, to enter voluntarily.

My right hon. Friend is not aware of any such practice. Some forms of senile mental illness can be cared for properly only in a mental hospital; and where admission as a voluntary patient is not accepted, certification may be the only way of securing that the patient gets the care and treatment which he needs.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that there is a widespread belief in and around the industrial areas that old people are being put into mental hospitals are given beds there because there are insufficient beds in general hospitals, and that when old people protest and do not go voluntarily they are certified? Will he look into this matter a little more closely?

If the hon. Lady will be good enough to give me any particulars. I shall be glad to look into them.

Would it not be far more economical to utilise hospitals and big old houses that have passed out of use to accommodate the old people?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if it is now permissible under his regulations to certify elderly patients entering mental institutions as suffering from mental senility; and how far deviation from the words laid down by statute is permitted.

The conditions to be met before a person can be certified are laid down by statute, as also are the terms in which the relative certificates must be given. There is no power to permit any deviation, such as that suggested by the hon. Lady, from the terms and conditions laid down by statute.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that it will give satisfaction to know that there is no deviation, because many people are being fobbed off with the excuse that a deviation is permitted? Now we have the Joint Under-Secretary's affirmation that that is not so. Is he aware that the statute permits these old people to be certified only either as lunatics or as imbeciles, and as this position is grossly unfair, will he not give attention to amending the Act?

As my right hon. Friend announced recently, a White Paper dealing with this matter is probably to be expected within a reasonable time.

I am aware of that, but the terms of reference make no mention whatever to old people who are merely senile being stigmatised by certification as imbeciles. Could the terms of reference be extended to cover them also?

The hon. Lady should await the White Paper, which may deal with that matter.