G1 Closure of Long Stay Institutions Information Sheet
The long stay hospitals had often taken over from workhouse hospitals and mental asylums. When the NHS was set up the Mental deficiency hospitals also became part of the long stay provision. The lack of support, adjustments in the outside world and lack of human rights meant that numbers grew in the post war period. These places were understaffed and patients were often not encouraged to develop.
In the 1950s, such hospitals and colonies were getting overcrowded as people lived longer. A number of psychologists established that IQ was not fixed,that people with learning difficulties could learn new skills and could work. A 1957 Royal Commission had concluded that mental handicap was not a medical condition, and that no resident should stay in hospital, if they could be supported in the outside world. Outside of the institution, they could be ‘normalised’ – a Swedish concept advocating life in small houses in open society – this philosophy being integral to the Community Care Movement. Drugs enabled patients to benefit from training to make their behaviour more socially acceptable. Despite this, progress to deinstitutionalise was very slow.
A number of scandals led to more public concern about long stay mental hospitals. ‘Silent Minority’ aired on British television June 1981. This documentary spotlights allegedly appalling conditions at Borocourt Hospital, Reading, Berks and St Lawrence’s Hospital Caterham, Surrey. St Lawrence’s Hospital opened in 1871 known as the South London Asylum. In 1974, the hospital came to public attention with the publication of the book ‘Tongue Tied’ by Joseph (‘Joey’) John Deacon who had been a patient at the hospital since the age of eight in 1928. Joey had cerebral palsy. This was followed by the TV documentary ‘Silent Minority’ in which the hospital featured in an unfavourable light. http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?t=11524#.UiNqxDbrzkR
Another scandal was At Ely Hospital, Cardiff
In July, 1967, the News of the World forwarded to the Minister of Health (We refer to the Minister of Health throughout this report as “the Minister”) a statement by a man we shall call XY, containing allegations of various forms of misconduct on the part of members of the staff at the Ely Hospital, Cowbridge Road, Cardiff. (We refer to the hospital throughout this report as “Ely”). XY’s statement was subsequently published (without disclosure of the identity of the hospital or any of the staff concerned) in the News of the World for Sunday, 20th August, 1967.
2. XY had been employed as a Nursing Assistant at Ely from 26th September, 1966, until 24th September, 1967. The full text of his original statement is set out in the Appendix to this Report. The allegations made, which all referred to the male wards at Ely, fell under the following general headings:
Cruel ill-treatment of four particular patients by six named members of the staff;
Generally inhumane and threatening behaviour towards patients by one of the staff members already referred to;
Pilfering of food, clothing and other items belonging to the hospital or the patients;
Indifference on the part of the Chief Male Nurse to complaints that were made to him;
Lack of care by the Physician Superintendent and one other member of the medical staff.
The Enquiry largely upheld the allegations and called for reform of supervision and staffing and for independent inspections but not for the hospitals closure.
A process of running down large institutions and their replacement by Community Care began. The NHS policy of care in the community, rather than in large institutions, came to be more fully implemented with the Community Care Act 1990. Within 17 years all the large institutions had been closed. Disabled people were supported, living in small community homes or independently, with support.
Organistions of parents and then self advocates like People First began to challenge the segregation of children and adults with learning difficulties
An example is the Camden Society founded in 1966. See Info Sheet on the Camden Society.