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Psycho-Geriatric Services

Volume 961: debated on Monday 22 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what guidance has been issued by his Department on psycho-geriatric services.

The main guidance issued by my Department on psychiatric services for the elderly is to be found in the White Paper "Better Services for the Mentally Ill", published in 1975 (HMSO, Cmnd. 6233). In subsequent years the priorities in developing these services with others, have been discussed in "Priorities for Health and Personal Social Services in England"—a Consultative Document—HMSO (1976); "The Way Forward"—a further discussion of priorities in the Health and Social Services—HMSO (1977); "DHSS Planning Guidelines 1978/79", HC(78)12/LAC(78)6. Some earlier advice which is still relevant was given in the circulars "Psycho-geriatric Assessment Units" HM(70)11; "Services for Mental Illness related to Old Age" HM(72)71 and "Community Hospitals" HSC(15)75.My Department is planning to develop the advice given in the White Paper in some further guidance on mental health services for the elderly which it is hoped will be issued to health and local authorities later this year.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what research is being undertaken by his Department into the field of psycho-geriatrics.

My Department sponsors an extensive programme of research relating to the provision of services for elderly people; many of the projects in this programme will yield results relevant to the requirements of elderly people suffering from mental illness or infirmity. Current projects devoted specifically to work in this field include:

A study of the principal supporters of confused elderly persons in the community (Dr. I. Sinclair, National Institute of Social Work).
The desirable balance between number of mentally infirm and lucid residents in old people's homes (Dr. D. Jolley, Dr. D. Wilkin, Manchester University).
In addition, the Department expects shortly to commission a project into the practicalities of achieving collaboration between hospital-based and community-based services for the elderly mentally infirm in the near future. It also proposes to sponsor a study of the pattern of mental disorders among elderly people living in the community and its implications for service provision and other forms of help.Research projects concerning this group sponsored by my Department and now completed are:

  • 1. The use of a psycho-geriatric assessment schedule for intervention in and identification of mental infirmity (Dr. K. Bergmann, Newcastle University).
  • 2. The provision of residential accommodation for the elderly mentally infirm (Mr. H. Spencely, Mr. N. Thomas, Wyvern Partnership/Social Services Unit, University of Birmingham).
  • The main Government-funded body undertaking research into this field is the Medical Research Council, from funds provided by the Department of Education and Science and the Health Departments.

    I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that the Council carries out a wide range of research relevant to mental illness in the elderly. At the Institute of Psychiatry in London the Council supports a programme of research on the measurement of the effects of age and disease on the human brain; at the University of Cambridge studies on the influence of encoding of the memory of patients with senile dementias and on normal ageing, and a multi-disciplinary inquiry into senile arteriosclerotic and related forms of dementia; and at the University of London Institute of Neurology neurochemical studies of the senile degenerative process. Work in this field has also been carried out in the Council's own establishments, including the clinical research centre and the brain metabolism unit.

    Much of the Council's other work on mental illness, undertaken with no particular age group in mind, will be relevant to problems of the elderly.

    Other research is being supported by the universities and the hospital medical schools but details are not centrally available.