15 March 2019

15th March 1949 - Kenneth Robinson becomes an MP


On 15th March 1949 Kenneth Robinson was sworn in as the MP for St. Pancras after winning a bye election. Before becoming an MP he had served as a member of the North West London Hospital Board, and knew the problems of the health service from the sharp end.

Thankyou to Andrew Roberts' Mental Health Timeline for this date. Kenneth Robinson frequently asked mental health questions in parliament. He was a great advocate of improved mental health services, and chaired the mental health committee, and became the Minister for Health. Robinson also served as the first chairman of the National Association of Mental Health (now known as Mind)

Here are a few contributions he made to debates in parliament (from Hansard) ...

19 March 1953
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the mental hospitals of this country are grossly overcrowded, that most of the buildings are hopelessly out of date and unsuitable, that these conditions are placing an intolerable strain upon the staffs and are hindering recruiting, and that 20 per cent. of the present very small capital allocation is quite insufficient? Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the matter again?

23 July 1953
Is the hon. Lady aware that the nursing situation in mental hospitals is deteriorating and may soon be quite critical, and that the General Nursing Council, who could do so much to help in this matter, seem to be unaware of the urgency of the problem?

19 Feb 1954
I beg to move, That this House, whilst recognising the advances made in recent years in the treatment and care of mental patients, expresses its concern at the serious overcrowding of mental hospitals and mental deficiency hospitals, at the high proportion of obsolete and unsuitable buildings still in use, and at the acute shortage of nursing and junior medical staff in the mental health service ...

Today, people are slowly but inevitably coming to appreciate that mental sickness is not fundamentally different from physical illness or accident and that it is something which can be treated in a mental hospital, in the same way as pneumonia or some other complaint is treated in a general hospital. That is a very important development, and I only wish it were progressing farther and faster...

21 March 1960
Is the Minister not aware that this country led the world in the open-door system in mental hospitals? Does he not think it is perfectly reasonable for any hospital to be able safely and profitably to open the doors of at least 80 per cent. of its wards? Therefore, would he use his influence to try to persuade the minority of backward hospitals to progress faster with this system?'

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