MENTAL HEALTH – MIXED-SEX WARDS – 15 December 1998

Dr Julian Lewis: If he will make a statement on the advice given to Goodmayes hospital by the NHS executive concerning the possible continuance of mixed-sex wards in psychiatric units?

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] Does the Secretary of State understand that a contradiction is apparent? Does he recall that on two previous occasions when I have raised the issue of the continuation of mixed-sex wards – and even the construction of new mixed-sex wards in psychiatric units – he said, in forthright and welcome terms, "If this is going on, I am going to put a stop to it." In the light of what he said when stopping the mixed-sex ward at Charing Cross hospital, how does he explain the letter from the NHS executive to Goodmayes hospital which stated:

"completely segregating services would not be acceptable, as there are good clinical reasons to provide an environment in hospitals which, as closely as it can, prepares people for their return to their own accommodation."

Is not that a backsliding on the categorical commitment that the Secretary of State has given? That backsliding was confirmed in a letter to me, dated 1 December, from the Under-Secretary of State, in which he says:

"Within a mental health unit, medical opinion favours an environment which is as normal as possible."

Does the Secretary of State accept that medical opinion, as represented by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, does not favour that sort of latitude?