asked the Minister of Health, in view of the large number of men and women now being detained in Darenth Park Hospital because of the difficulty in obtaining accommodation for ex-mental patients in the community outside, what steps his Department has taken in conjunction with the Kent County Council to ensure that these people are provided with alternative accommodation as soon as possible to enable rehabilitation to be completed.
The County Council is proposing to provide accommodation of various kinds to meet needs in its area, but the order of priority in which it does so is for it to decide. Meanwhile these patients are being suitably cared for in hospital.
Does the Minister think that human beings are satisfied to live in the atmosphere of a mental hospital even if they have Joe Loss's Band and all the entertainments that we can give them? Does the Minister not appreciate that what they want is their liberty? Is he not aware that many of them are working locally in industry but because they are branded no one will give them a home and they have to go back into the atmosphere of a mental hospital? Will not he do something to see that they get out sooner and thus fulfil the promise of the headlines which his Department sent out with the new Act, that there was a new deal for mental patients? These patients are waiting for something to be done.
The hon. Gentleman knows full well the steps that we are taking in the implementation of both the contents and spirit of our legislation. With regard to Kent, in its building programme for the current year the county council has included a home for elderly mentally infirm people, and two hostels to be used in conjunction with its new training centres for the mentally subnormal. It has also put new proposals to me whereby it has undertaken to ascertain the need for residential accommodation, and to provide it as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of Health how many of the 125 people compulsorily detained in Darenth Park Hospital on 29th February, who could be released from the atmosphere of a mental hospital if suitable homes or hostels were available, have since been found places outside; what action is being taken with regard to the remainder; and what prospects there are for them to develop in the future normal social relationships.
Eight of these patients are now on residential licence; further action depends on suitable places being found and the provision of accommodation by the Local Health Authority; all of these patients are subnormal.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that several patients in that hospital, who have been there for nearly forty years, are as normal as people outside? If they cannot be found homes, will he see at least that they are able to have a holiday this year outside mental hospitals?
I shall certainly consider that possibility. These are patients who, in the opinion of the medical superintendent, will always need some form of care, and few of them would be capable of earning an independent living in the community. But the kind of arrangements that I have referred to, which are in contemplation by Kent County Council, will be helpful to patients such as these and to others similarly placed.