Letter: When patients kill

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report concerning the expert committee's review of independent inquiries into homicides committed by those in contact with the psychiatric services ("Ministers plan to stop inquiries into killings by psychiatric patients", 29 November) prompts the following comments from one who has chaired one such inquiry and reviewed others.

The lessons derived from nearly all such inquiries are similar; they point less to individual failures by professionals but more to failures in resource provision and in systems of accountability and management. In addition, these lessons are not collated and disseminated for the benefit of professionals.

Whether inquiries are "independent" or conducted "in house" they are unlikely to entirely satisfy the understandable desire for remedy and catharsis by those suffering varying degrees of bereavement (and I include the relatives and near-ones of perpetrators as well as victims).

We should remember also that independent inquiries are only held when a homicide has occurred; to this extent they are arbitrary, since serendipity may determine whether an attack ends in death or serious injury.


Loughborough University