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Mr. Hinchliffe: I am not sure that I fully clarified my point. The patient to whom I referred was subject to a tribunal decision that he should be transferred from a particular hospital a year ago. He has still not been transferred. When the draft Bill becomes legislation, how will those circumstances differ? Who would ensure that that decision was implemented?
Mr. Milburn: First, that will be a decision for the tribunal. Secondly, howeverthis is an important further safeguard, tooas my hon. Friend is aware, we currently have the Mental Health Act Commission. The draft Bill proposes that we build on the work of the commission but give a new power to the new, independent health inspectorate that we envisagethe Commission for Health Care Audit and Inspectionwhich will have precisely the function of ensuring that the decisions of the mental health tribunal are carried out fairly, according to legislation. In law, the national health service will have to act following a tribunal decision. An additional failsafe exists, however, through the powers that will be accorded to the Commission for Health Care Audit and Inspection.
These are major changes to mental health laws. As I said, we are committed to consulting widely on them. We intend, however, to provide new safeguards for patients alongside better protection for the wider community. I believe that the changes are long overdue.
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport): The Secretary of State stresses the breadth of the consultation procedure, which I am sure that we all welcome. A procedure exists, however, whereby the Committee dealing with a Bill can go into a Select Committee phase to take evidence before moving to a Standing Committee phase. Have the Government considered whether it might be appropriate to use that procedure for this Bill? [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. Before the Secretary of State answers, may I say to the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) that I am not entirely happy about the device that he is using now, unless he can satisfy me that it is purely and simply for diary purposes?
The hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) is tempting me to take on powers that I do not really have. In the end, those are matters for the business managers. The Government would certainly look favourably on the idea of referring the draft Bill to a Special Standing Committee. That would be helpful not only in terms of being able to examine it in detail, as we did with the Adoption and Children Bill, for example, but of taking evidence from many parties, some of whom will be happy with the provisions, and some not. If that is the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, I have no problem with it. I have no doubt that it can be discussed through the usual channels.
Mental health legislation, however, is only for the small minority of patients with a mental health problem that poses the gravest risk to themselves or to others. It is really important to keep that in mind and in perspective when debating these issues. I have no doubt that tomorrow, almost inevitably, the newspapers will be full of stories about the compulsory powers in the mental health Bill that we are proposing. However, we are debating a range of issues here today, and mental health law inevitably only ever affects a small minority of those patients with a mental health problem. It is important to keep that in mind when we debate these issues.
In the end, good quality care and treatment are key to making sure that most people with mental health problems never need to fall within the scope of mental health legislation. That is why, for the first time, the Government have laid down national standards for mental health services. Not surprisingly, the national service framework that we published three years ago has been widely welcomed, not just by clinicians and managers, but even more importantly, by carers and users of the services.
Normally such young people, who are among the most vulnerable in the community, are simply not dealt with at all. They often have to wait years to be seen. However, we now know that the model that is being rolled out in 18 local communities across the country works. It can provide quick interventional services and makes a real difference to those people. It prevents them from ever requiring hospitalisation.
As I tried to make clear earlier, the trick is to get the range of services right. Although the national service framework and the NHS plan are, by necessity, 10-year programmeswe must build up capacity and change the culture of the serviceprogress is under way. Last year was the first year in perhaps decades in which the overall number of mental health beds in the national health service rose rather than fell. There are more than 500 extra secure beds and 320 extra 24-hour staffed beds. Such services were never available in the past, but more of them are to come.
Clearly, everything cannot be done at once, because of staffing and capacity constraints. None the less, a range of services that gets early intervention into place and ensures that appropriate services for those who need them are available in primary and hospital care is in place across the country as a whole.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): The Secretary of State mentioned what he thought would be in the headlines tomorrow, but I am sure that he is aware that in the headlines today is the case of a 60-year-old mental patient who was raped on a mixed-sex ward. He will recall our exchanges in the past about mixed-sex wards, and that in 1997, the date for ending them was envisaged to be 1999. That went back to 2002, and then to the end of 2002. When will we see the elimination of mixed-sex wards in mental hospitals?
Mr. Milburn: If I were the hon. Gentleman, I would be cautious about drawing too much from an individual case in the national health service. I might be wrong, but my understanding is that the incident concerned happened to a patient who occupied a single room, not in a mixed-sex ward. I may be wrong about that, but if the hon. Gentleman is getting his information from the Daily Mail, he should be cautious.
Wherever the incident took place, it was appalling and almost indescribable. It raises profound questions for the NHS. It is worth remembering that there are some evil people out there and we must ensure that the right form of protection is available for patients withoutthis is something we want to avoidturning all our hospitals into prisons. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to avoid that too.
Mr. Milburn: In all candour, the hon. Gentleman is trying to draw too many wrong conclusions from one isolated terrible case. Let us examine carefully whether the incident involved a mixed-sex ward or not. It is my understanding that a member of the public came into the hospital and entered the lady's individual, single room.
We are making progress on mixed-sex wards. I think the hon. Gentleman is aware that we have targets to meet by the end of the year. I have no doubt that he will be the first to raise it if we do not meet them. However, I can assure him that we are well on target. If he wants to have a word with me after 31 December, we will contrast the progress that this Government have made in eliminating mixed-sex accommodation with the absolute failure to do anything about it when his Government were in power.
Providing the right range of serviceswhether in community services or acute servicesrequires investment. Until the Government came to office, no special funding was available for mental health services. When I hear the hon. Member for Woodspring railing against diverting mental health funding into other clinical areas, I am afraid that I also hear the sound of opportunism resonating with hypocrisy. He usually never misses an opportunity to argue the case against what he calls political priorities for funding certain services in the NHSpriorities set by Ministers. Mental health is such a service. I say that unashamedly. Under this Government, it is receiving special fundingI say that unashamedly, toobecause it has a special need. Far from not producing results, the resources that it is getting are indeed producing results.