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19 Mar 2003 : Column 961—continued

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): Instead of trying to introduce some, frankly spurious, distinctions between mental health and other aspects of the health service, will the hon. Gentleman direct his remarks to the question of the right patients? Do not people with mental health problems have exactly the same right as anyone else to live in the community and receive provision there?

Mr. Burns: I find the hon. Gentleman's intervention slightly contradictory and complex, but I agree with the last part of what he says. No one wants people to be kept in hospital when they do not need to be there, and all of us want each patient to receive the most appropriate care—whether, in the case of the elderly, in their own homes with a domiciliary care package, or in residential care homes. We would agree on that. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, particularly given some of his statements in recent days, I resent his use of the word "spurious" because the argument is not spurious, and I hope that the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Health, will back me up.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield): It is not exactly a secret that I am not the Bill's biggest fan, but I am trying to understand how Lords amendment No. 2 would work in practice, and I have not been assisted so far by the contribution of the hon. Gentleman who speaks from the Opposition Front Bench. What is meant by the phrase "a person receiving mental health services"? That seems to be such a wide-ranging definition, and it could include huge numbers of people who are on antidepressants from a general practitioner. Is the hon.

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Gentleman specifically focusing on individuals in psychiatric beds in acute hospitals? Is that the purpose of his argument?

Mr. Burns: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I apologise if I am being obscure in certain areas, but, yes, the fundamental basis of my argument is that I believe—this is the intention of Lords amendment No. 2—that those people who are, in effect, defined as receiving treatment in hospital psychiatric beds should be exempt from the Bill. The bottom line is that I do not want the pressure that the Bill will put on hospital discharges to be put on those patients because of the nature of their illness and treatment, and the Bill should recognise the difference between mental health treatment and acute treatment. I know what the hon. Gentleman said, but it is interesting that the Minister in the other place, the late Lord Hunt—

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town): He is not dead.

Mr. Burns: The Whip is absolutely right. Lord Hunt is not dead, but he is politically dead to such an extent that the Deputy Prime Minister did not recognise that he was a human being or that he had been a member of the Administration, despite the fact that he had been for almost six years. He is politically dead, so the word "late" was probably justified in that context.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): My confusion about the hon. Gentleman's proposal arises because he talks in a broad and categorical way about patients who are in beds in psychiatric hospitals, but even that does not bring the definition down to a level that I find comprehensible. People who suffer from mental illnesses may need a bed in a secure psychiatric hospital for a comparatively short time, but others will need such a bed for much longer. There are as many variations among the extreme episodes endured by people who suffer from mental illnesses as there are in any other field of medicine. The proposal is simply not clear.

Mr. Burns: The hon. Lady is entitled to her view. Her point that the time spent in a hospital bed by an individual suffering from mental health or acute health problems will vary depending on individual circumstances is right. The point that I am trying to make is that the situation is different for mental health, and we do not want to impede the treatment and future appropriate care of individuals suffering from mental health by putting them under the umbrella of the Bill and placing additional pressures on them.

Andy Burnham (Leigh): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Burns: I shall not, because I want to make progress.

The answer is to exclude mental health patients from the Bill in the same way as other groups of people will be excluded from its ambit, although the Government have the power to include them if they are so minded. Excluding mental health patients is the right way to proceed because of the nature of mental illness and its

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historic position in the NHS until about a decade ago. The group could be included in the future, but it should not be included at the moment. That is why I hope that the House will agree with the Lords amendment and disagree with the Government's motion.

Mr. Hinchliffe: I shall simply respond to the hon. Gentleman's comments. I listened carefully as he supported the Lords amendment, but his arguments do not seem to relate to its wording. His comments were very specific. He clearly implied that he was focusing on the circumstances of individuals who are in acute psychiatric beds and—to use his words—suffering from mental health. We all have mental health, although we do not necessarily suffer from it. The phrase is "suffering from mental illness".

The amendment is more wide ranging than the specific matter on which the hon. Gentleman focused. Despite my personal opposition to the Bill, I cannot understand how the Government could honestly accept the amendment, because it is badly drafted and so wide ranging that it could cover any number of individuals, which I do not believe is the hon. Gentleman's intention.

1.45 pm

Other Lords amendments would improve the Bill, although I am not necessarily convinced that they would be a positive step toward addressing delayed discharges. Indeed, the Government might concede that on occasions. The hon. Gentleman's arguments are extremely thin and the Government could not genuinely accept such a wide-ranging amendment.

Mr. Dawson: I shall be much more generous to the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) than my esteemed and hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), because the hon. Gentleman made a good attempt at proposing something that is basically unacceptable. I do not believe that his remarks showed a total commitment to the amendment.

The Lords amendment is appalling and should be dismissed out of hand. We should question what the other place was doing when it was tabled. It would be quite wrong specifically to exclude mental health services from the range of services that will be included—before very long, I hope—in the provisions of this first-class Bill. I recently visited Ridge Lea hospital, which is my local hospital in Lancaster, and I met people who had been living on the locked Lonsdale ward for many years. The patients and the people who care for them expressed enormous concerns about the difficulties entailed in assisting patients to move on to appropriate community services. Difficulties are encountered when liaising with social security services. It is extraordinarily difficult to ensure that the patients have appropriate places to live in the community and that appropriate support services are available.

Some of those people lived in locked circumstances with restricted liberty. It is outrageous, and a matter of enormous worry, that people live in such circumstances for longer than their acute mental health needs require. If appropriate provisions were available in the

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community, they could move there with their liberties assured. That is a fundamental human rights issue. I have no doubt that the Bill is not a universal panacea. We need considerable investment in, and new legislation for, mental health services. However, the provisions will be an enormous help for such people by ensuring that agencies are made well aware of the need to work closely together to ensure that services are available.

I am slightly disappointed that mental health will not be one of the services to which the provisions will apply immediately. I urge hon. Members to reject the amendment, but I also urge my hon. Friend the Minister to assure me that the Government will move quickly to ensure that mental health services are included.

Glenda Jackson: I also have concerns about the amendment. The Opposition say that mental illness services are a Cinderella service and that they are anxious that they are improved. I am perfectly prepared to accept that that is an honourable and justifiable position to take. The Government have done much to bring services for mentally ill patients out of the shadows and into the light, but I am sure that they would not want anyone to believe that the services are in full sunshine as yet. However, great improvements have been made.

I am sure that, with the best will in the world, the Opposition want to ensure that mentally ill people receive treatment but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) pointed out, their amendment would lead to seemingly permanent incarceration behind locked doors. Such a provision would act as an active deterrent to improving mental health services for everyone.

I have some questions for my hon. Friend the Minister. I have concerns about the definition of services that will be provided only to someone who is normally—if that is the correct word—resident in England and Wales. My concerns stem from a case in my constituency in which the mother of a family in my constituency was resident in Northern Ireland. She visited the family in my constituency, but was taken ill. She received excellent treatment from the national health service, but the family then decided that, because she lived alone in Northern Ireland, she should come to live with them. Does the provision mean that my constituents' mother will be excluded from a proper care package that is put in place by my local authority? What does "resident" mean in that context?

When my constituents raised this case, I was concerned because people from all over the world reside in my constituency. They have the right to live in this country and they have lived here for a considerable time. They pay their taxes and are not a drain on the state. If one of their elderly relatives should visit and the same situation were replicated, would that mean that the citizens of the United Kingdom whose parents come from a country other than England or Wales would not receive proper care or would not be able to patch into the national health services that are open to the rest of the United Kingdom's citizens? Will my hon. Friend clarify the position?

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