Health Services: Mental hospitals provision slashed

The number of available beds in mental illness wards in National Health Service hospitals has dropped by almost 50,000 since 1980, it was revealed yesterday.

The average daily number of beds available to treat the mentally ill has dropped from 87,396 to the 1996-97 figure of 37,624. The figures were revealed in a written answer to Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, from Paul Boateng, health minister with responsibility for mental health. The huge drop stems from the former government's policy of treating the mentally ill in the community, rather than in institutions.

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