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Volume 928: debated on Monday 21 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, as in the case at Broadmoor of Elizabeth Finch, it is normal practice to advise next-of-kin of the suicide of their relatives by means of one telephone call, with no further communication; and if he will change the procedure so that, in tragic circumstances such as the case of Elizabeth Finch, a personal visit, or at least a letter, is sent by the authorities to the closest relative.

In all cases where a patient dies or is seriously injured the practice of the Broadmoor authorities is to notify the next of kin by the quickest means available—usually telephone or telegram. Where it seems appropriate this initial notification is followed by a letter, but for the reasons explained in my letter of 3rd March this was not done in the case of Elizabeth Finch. The steps taken to inform relatives must, I think, be considered individually in the light of the circumstances of each case, and I do not think it would be right to lay down rigid rules. I have, however, noted the hon. Member's view. I would reiterate my right hon. Friend's assurance that no discourtesy or lack of sympathy to Miss Finch's parents was intended and to apologise if any such impression was unwittingly given.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if there is a staff shortage at Broadmoor.

The numbers of staff at Broadmoor have increased substantially in recent years. Staffing requirements are reviewed regularly; and on 1st March 1977 the staff in post was 36 less than the current target complement.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if any mechanical supervisory aids, such as closed circuit television, are in use at Broadmoor; and if any such proposals have been made, or any tests carried out.

No such aids are in use. The possibility of using closed circuit television as an aid to security was considered some years ago but rejected.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if the parents of Elizabeth Finch, who recently committed suicide at Broadmoor, may be advised when they can collect, or be sent, her effects.

I understand that the hospital had some difficulty in contacting Miss Finch's father about this, but arrangements have now been made for the effects to be delivered on Tuesday 22nd March.