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[1] EXPERTS SAY CARE CRISIS IS A NATIONAL SCANDAL; Mental health Part 5.

Care in the community is in crisis. It is one of the major scandals of our failing national health service.

Thanks to the Tories thousands of mentally ill people have been abandoned on to the streets, unable to care for themselves and with nobody to care for them.

It is 14 years since the 1983 Mental Health Act when the Government reinforced its policy to close psychiatric hospitals and discharge patients into the community.

It was supposed to be about integrating the mentally ill back into society and the key to its success was adequate care in the community.

Before shoving patients back into the real world, facilities for care and protection should have been set up. But the Tories failed to provide enough money.

So thousands ended up living rough or dossing down in bed and breakfast lodgings - a danger to themselves and a danger to others. The number of hospital beds for the mentally ill has steadily declined over the last 10 years from 70,000 to just 40,000.

More than 9,000 have been lost in London alone.

Half of all the NHS beds are filled with seriously disturbed patients who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

There is little room for the long-term mentally ill who have breakdowns in the community.

Even less chance of a bed for those who need acute care such as the growing numbers of anorexic teenagers, women with post-natal depression, people having a nervous breakdown or midlife crisis.

But while the number of NHS beds plummets, the number of private psychiatric beds is soaring. From 4,507 in 1978 to more than 24,000 in 1995.

Care in the community is also a pot of gold for the private sector.

Private provision has escalated from 6,902 beds in 1987 to 12,245 in 1995, while the number of local authority places during the same period has dropped from 5,673 to 4,747.

Tragically, much of the private provision are bed sits, doss houses, squalid lodgings.

The care is non-existent. The landlords are only in it for the money they get from social services for looking after the patients.

The result is death and devastation to the mentally ill, their families, their carers and to innocent members of the public.

Since January 1996 there have been 24 inquiries into fatal incidents involving care in the community.

Each one costs around pounds 250,000. Each one coming up with the same answers, the same lessons to be learnt, the same recommendations for change.

It is money that would be far better spent on action rather than words.
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Article Details
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Author:Medical, JILL PALMER
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 22, 1997
Words:439
Previous Article:TWO MOTHERS TELL HOW SYSTEM DESTROYED THEIR LIVES; Care bungle let my Johnny die; No one helped my killer son.
Next Article:EXPERTS SAY CARE CRISIS IS A NATIONAL SCANDAL; Mental health Part 5.


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