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Mental Hospitals (Children)

Volume 649: debated on Monday 20 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Health, if he is aware of the general concern aroused by the case of a 10-yearold girl, who, instead of being placed in a special school for maladjusted children, has for seven months been the only child in a mental hospital with 1,200 mentally ill adults; and, in view of occurrences in the past of a similar character, where boys and girls have been detained with mentally ill adults, how many further cases there are of children under 13 years of age being kept with adult patients in mental hospitals.

I am aware of this case. As regards the second part of the Question, figures are not available in this precise form, but at 1st April there were 202 mentally ill children under 12 in psychiatric beds and about 260 places in wards for mentally disturbed children under 13.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the sorrow suffered by parents who have children of this sort? Does he not think that it is a terrible indictment that these parents have to go to such lengths and to the courts before something is done to take their child out of this hospital? As he knows, there is a great shortage. Is it not right that in this affluent society something should be done to change this great shortage of accommodation for children of this type?

On the particular case, the hon. Gentleman has a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for whom—

I am referring to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. He has a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about the particular case to which he referred. If he looks at the figures I have given, he will see that there can be only a very few instances—though I agree it is always undesirable—when a child of this kind is in an adult ward.

Is there not one important lesson to be learned from this unhappy case, which is that there is in this country a serious shortage of accommodation for psychotic and grossly maladjusted children? Will the Minister do what he can to see that regional hospital boards meet this provision better than they have done hitherto?

I must repeat that the evidence is that it is very rare for a child of this kind to need to be accommodated in an adult ward. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will look at the figures.