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Reduction in care for the mentally ill; VIEWPOINTS.

WHEREAS no-one would argue with the headline "This must not happen again" (June 15) - even though tragedies like this do, in fact, happen again - I was particularly concerned about the sub-heading "Mum wants to stop mentally ill being set free to kill".

The mistake here is the implication that all mentally ill patients, discharged from hospital, pose a potential threat to the public at large. This is not true, as only a fraction of a percent of the mentally ill pose a danger to others.

As with the physically ill, the problem is the current malaise in NHSWales of premature discharge from hospital with the emphasis being shifted to "Care in the Community". The result of this futile effort to cut costs - by reducing the numbers of beds and simultaneous admissions - is the alarming increase in re-admissions, as well as an overburdening of inadequate resources in the community.

In mental health services, there has been a 30% reduction in hospital beds since June 1992 (from the NHS' own figures for Cardiff and the Vale), which has conflicted with an increase in need for inpatient services.

Of most concern is the reduction in care for the acutely mentally ill, including some patients with schizophrenia.

These patients are often subject to "sectioning" under the Mental Health Act. This means that, by definition, they require a period of compulsory inpatient care in order to stabilise their condition.

However, the disproportionate (to current need) cuts in inpatient beds inevitably leads to the premature discharge of patients.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in patients committing suicide within two weeks of being discharged.

Very rarely, some of these do harm to others, and it is these few, potentially violent patients, who we must provide with continuing inpatient care.

Whether it be from premature discharge, or cuts in the care of the elderly mentally infirm, it is a stark fact that the death rate of the mentally ill is increasing.

Unfortunately, only the horrific murder of people like Anthony Kitely focuses attention on the mentally ill for all the wrong reasons.

Ask yourselves: how many times have you read in newspapers that "the victim was murdered by a man/woman with a known history of physical health problems..." ? Nonetheless, my heart goes out to Anthony's family.

Robin Williams, Patient Advocate, Co-ordinator Mental Health User Group Penarth
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 19, 2010
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