06 June 2019

6th June 1845 - County Asylums Act.


On 6th June 1845 the care of people with mental health issues was considered in parliament as a new bill was put before parliament. Members of Parliament had been shocked to hear of the abuses and cruelties perpetrated in retreats for patients. The bill would change the law and ensure that each county in England and Wales had their own properly regulated asylum. Counties could share asylums if need be. The act attempted to ensure that care was compassionate and that 70% of patients were cured.

Lord Ashley presenting the bill said "First, that there are 40 counties in England, and only 16 county asylums; and 12 counties in Wales, and only one disgraceful borough asylum. "

He went on to say "All the existing asylums are full of incurables, or persons said to be incurable. No system has been adopted in the county asylums to give preference to urgent cases, or those capable of cure. Where lunatics are kept in workhouses there is no sufficient medical or moral treatment."

Then he went on to say how things would improve after the change in the law "It will place "hospitals" or subscription asylums under proper regulations, by requiring them to have the same orders and certificates as are necessary in licensed houses, and by subjecting them to the same visitations as county asylums. My Bill will also provide an additional security against the improper detention of pauper patients, by requiring that the person signing the order for their confinement shall personally examine them beforehand, and that the medical officer who certifies as to their insanity shall see them within seven days previous to their confinement. I may add that neither of these safeguards exists at present. I propose, also, that my measure should compel every person receiving a patient to state his condition, mental as well as bodily, when first admitted, and the cause of his death when he dies. It will also direct that every injury and act of violence happening to a patient shall be recorded, and will require a case-book to be kept, thereby affording additional securities against mismanagement, and showing how far the patients have the benefit of medical treatment. It will also authorize the visitors to enforce a proper supply of food (in licensed houses) to pauper patients, who are at present fed at the discretion of the proprietor. Further, it will enable the visitor to order the admission of a patient's friends; at present, they are admitted or excluded at the caprice of the person who signs the order for the patient's confinement. It likewise will enable the visitors to sanction the temporary removal of a patient in ill health to the sea-side.."

All of this is from Hansard ... https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1845/jun/06/treatment-of-insane-persons-in-england

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