'Heading up a blind alley'? Scottish psychiatric hospitals in the era of deinstitutionalization

Hist Psychiatry. 2017 Mar;28(1):115-128. doi: 10.1177/0957154X16673025. Epub 2016 Oct 23.


This article examines Scottish provision of psychiatric care in the 1960s and 1970s. It demonstrates that institutional services did not rapidly disappear across the UK following the Ministry of Health's decision to shut down psychiatric hospitals in 1961, and highlights Scotland's distinctive trajectory. Furthermore, it contends that psychiatric hospitals developed new approaches to assist patients in this era, thereby contributing towards the transformation of post-war psychiatric practice. Connecting a discussion of policy with an analysis of provision, it examines the Department of Health for Scotland's cautious response to the Ministry's embrace of deinstitutionalization, before analysing Glasgow's psychiatric provision in the 1970s. At this point the city boasted virtually no community-based services, and relied heavily on its under-resourced and overburdened hospitals. Closer analysis dispels any impression of stagnation, revealing how ideologies of deinstitutionalization transformed institutional care.

Keywords: Deinstitutionalization; Gartnavel Royal Hospital; Scotland; long-stay patients; psychiatric hospitals.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Deinstitutionalization / history*
  • Health Policy / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / history*
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / history*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Scotland