Orders of the Day — Hospitals, Dartford (Ronald Meloy)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th November 1960.

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Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford 12:00 am, 8th November 1960

Today, in the House, we had a debate on housing, and horrifying stories were told of the misery and distress caused to very many of our people as a result of the Rent Act. I wish to speak now not about large numbers of people but about one humble person in particular and a handful of people in general. It is, I think, worthy of comment that in this House, where the Commons concerns itself with not tens of millions but hundreds of millions of people throughout the Commonwealth, it is possible to raise the case of one humble person. That is a remarkable fact, and it is, I believe, something of which this House of Commons may be proud.

I am raising the case of Ronald Meloy, a boy of 16, who, unfortunately, is almost completely disabled by a form of paralysis. He is an intelligent boy. He is well liked by many people. Because of his present unsatisfactory circumstances, I have been asked to take up his case with all the emphasis I can command in the hope that matters can be improved with all possible speed.

This boy, despite his affliction, was, until a few months ago, reasonably happy at his home where, in the care of his mother, he could live and, perhaps, watch the television. During the day, he was taken by car or ambulance to a special school at Lewisham. His circumstances changed when he lost the care of his mother. Of course, it was impossible for his father to look after him at home. After a while, he was taken to a hospital in Margate, and he is now at a hospital in Bognor.

At his home in Belvedere in my constituency, Ronald Meloy had many friends. Now, those who wish to see him must make a journey of 120 miles. Although there are friends who, on occasions, can take his grandmother, father and young brother or other friends to see him, even for these good Samaritans it is asking a lot to do the journey very often. The information I have is that, as a result of this separation from his family and friends. this boy is very lonely and unhappy. No one can doubt that he must miss his relatives and his friends.

I hoped that the matter could be dealt with without any need to bring it to the Minister or to the House. I made all the inquiries I could in the hope that something would be done quickly, but I gather from what I was told that it is likely to be months, or even a year, before he can be admitted to a hospital at Dartford within a mile or two of his home. Dartford has a conglomeration of hospitals. Only last year, the Southern Hospital was closed down in that area. I was, therefore, surprised to be informed that, although there is a small unit there, it is very rare for a vacancy to be available for a person of this sort. Not only that. There are two other people ahead of Ronald Meloy waiting for vacancies at the Joyce Green Hospital. The situation of this young chap is such that a wait of a few months or a year is like an eternity. I am told that the effect of the loneliness is most marked upon him. That is the testimony of relatives and friends who have seen him.

After my inquiries into the case of Ronald Meloy, I am very concerned to find that there are others in the same or a worse plight waiting for a vacancy at the hospital in Dartford. Ronald Meloy, I am informed, has had his name down for this hospital, not for months, but for nearly two years. The doctor advises that he should go there. Those concerned with the case begged that something should be done so that he could be in the neighbourhood, and I have letters from friends that should he be in the Dartford area, they would be able to take him out or he could go home for week-ends. For example, a letter from his father states: To get Ronald to Dartford would be a godsend to us all. We could have him home at week-ends. I therefore raise this case because the information locally indicates that there is need to extend the vacancies in a hospital of this sort.

It happened that a few days ago, I had a letter from the Minister on another subject. It related to the fact that 100 young people under the age of 16 who are mentally ill are accommodated in the men's wards in mental hospitals. The Minister rightly pointed out that these youngsters were in areas where there were no children's wards at the hospitals and that if they were to be sent to a children's ward, it would mean that they would have to go a long way from their homes. Time and time again in this House it has been pointed out how essential it is that young people in particular, when they are receiving treatment, should be within easy access, if possible, of friends and relations. In other words, visiting is most important for patients.

I therefore ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether she considers that it is easy to make a journey of at least 120 miles return. Is it not a fact that Dartford is well equipped with hospitals? Surely, in 1960, it is possible to do better than to face a boy like this with a wait of twelve months or even longer before he can get into a hospital locally.

If the Parliamentary Secretary tells me something different, if she tells me that it will not be long before the boy gets into hospital locally, the news will be greatly welcomed by many people in the Belvedere district, which I represent. Therefore, I make no apology for raising this matter, for it affects not merely Ronald Meloy, but others who may be afflicted in the same way and who, I hope, as a result of this matter being raised, will not have to undergo the loneliness and misery that is now the lot of Ronald Meloy.