Aged Persons (Care)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th March 1952.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East 12:00 am, 25th March 1952

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take respecting the care of the aged and infirm.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith):

This very wide subject is dealt with in the annual reports of the Department of Health for Scotland. The report for the year 1951 will be published on 1st April and copies will be available in the Vote Office. If the hon. Member wishes further information on particular points, perhaps he will let me know.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that there is grave disquiet in Scotland about the care of the aged and infirm?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore , Ayr

There has been for six years.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

Quite recently I saw an aged person, suffering very badly from bed sores, who was taken from a general hospital. Will the hon. and gallant Member take immediate steps to provide greater supervision so that these aged people may be looked after a little better than they have been?

Commander Galbraith:

Yes, Sir. But having regard to the matter of building labour and materials, local authorities have not, in general, been remiss in their duty under the National Assistance Act to provide homes for old people.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made during the year 1951 by the Scottish local authorities in the provision of homes for the aged; and to what extent the number of aged persons awaiting such accommodation is being progressively reduced.

Commander Galbraith:

During 1951, 10 homes for old people were opened by local authorities and five have so far been opened this year. The 15 homes provide places for 307 persons.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to deal with the last part of the Question, which asks to what extent the number of aged persons awaiting such accommodation is being gradually reduced, and, at the same time, whether he has any information as to local authorities neglecting these particular responsibilities?

Commander Galbraith:

It is very difficult to gauge the number of persons waiting for residential accommodation, but it is obvious that the waiting list is being reduced. For instance, 29 additional premises have been acquired, and most of them are being adapted at the present time. Almost weekly, new homes are being opened for aged people.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

While I appreciate that many local authorities are actively engaged in this work, might I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he is convinced that all local authorities are taking these responsibilities very seriously, or whether a number of authorities are neglecting those responsibilities?

Commander Galbraith:

That is rather a different question, but at the moment I have no reason to suppose that local authorities generally are neglecting their duties. They are doing very well.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take to avoid the present practice of certifying aged people as insane before admitting them to mental hospitals.

Commander Galbraith:

Certification cannot be avoided where treatment in a mental hospital is necessary but the patient does not agree to enter voluntarily. Any other arrangement would require legislation.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that if this process goes on of certifying very aged people as insane, when they are in fact senile, it will not be many generations before all the children of the working classes will have insanity in their family records, and that this is quite a dangerous policy?

Commander Galbraith:

I am sure the hon. Member will understand the difficulty. Senile people are often incapable of expressing themselves as willing or unwilling to receive mental treatment, and thus are unable to be accepted as voluntary patients.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

Why should they not be accepted and treated as aged people in a senile state? Why certify them insane and cast reflections on generations of their children?

Commander Galbraith:

I have already informed the hon. Member that such a course would require legislation.

Photo of Mrs Jean Mann Mrs Jean Mann , Coatbridge and Airdrie

Would not the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider that this is a very great hardship on the children and grandchildren of old people? Would it not be possible merely to have senility certificates? If that is not possible, would he consider introducing some legislation to put the matter right in future? The trouble is bound to grow owing to increased longevity.

Commander Galbraith:

I sympathise with the point of view expressed and will certainly look into it.

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Edinburgh East

Can we have a categorical answer to whether or not Her Majesty's Government intend to introduce legislation to remove this evil?

Commander Galbraith:

Not at the moment.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of what is happening? These people are not receiving mental treatment. Is he not aware that the solution lies in his answer to a previous Question, of which he seems blithely ignorant, that there are local authorities who are neglecting their responsibility to provide homes for these people and who are using this practice to put old people away?

Commander Galbraith:

I said I was not aware that local authorities are not having regard to the need to provide these old people's homes. Apart from that, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the party which he represents in this House had six years in which to do this work.

Photo of Alice Cullen Alice Cullen , Glasgow Gorbals

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many chronic and aged sick in Glasgow are awaiting hospital accommodation; and how many have been on the waiting list more than six months.

Commander Galbraith:

There are 708 chronic and aged sick patients in Glasgow awaiting hospital admission at present, of whom 303 have been on the waiting list for more than six months.

Photo of Alice Cullen Alice Cullen , Glasgow Gorbals

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that not a day passes in Glasgow without an old person being found dying or dead in a lonely home for lack of accommodation where he or she could be looked after? Will he consider this matter seriously? Is he aware that I visited the home of an old lady on the Clyde on Saturday and found that nobody had entered the place for three days and during that time the old lady had not had a cup of tea?

Commander Galbraith:

At present the Western Regional Board have plans to utilise Shieldhall Infectious Diseases Hospital and the Schaw Convalescent Home, Bearsden, for chronic and aged sick, and that process will continue.