Health chief insists that system was not at fault

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The Independent Online
NICHOLAS TIMMINS

The horrific attack in Rackhams department store was not a failure of the mental health services, NHS managers and psychiatrists insisted yesterday.

Defending the decision to discharge Morgan from the hospital where he was treated for schizophrenia and other disorders in 1988, John Mahoney, chief executive of the Northern Birmingham Mental Health Trust, said that 50 per cent of people with mental illness recovered completely and remained symptom-free.

Mr Mahoney said when Morgan presented himself to his GP in the October before the knife-wielding rampage, the doctor had referred him to a community psychiatric nurse who arranged for a consultant psychiatrist to examine him.

The psychiatrist judged, however, that he was not mentally ill - a view that was upheld by psychiatrists at Ashworth special hospital, Merseyside - where Morgan spent nine months on remand - and backed by the judge.

Mr Mahoney said: "Numerous psychiatrists who have seen him before and after these attacks could find no evidence of mental illness or a recurrence of his earlier symptoms.

"We can only stand by our original conclusion that there were no grounds to treat David Morgan, compulsorily or not, and that he is not suffering from mental illness."

Mr Mahoney said the trust extended its sincere sympathy to Morgan's victims, but "the mental health services cannot be held accountable".

Having aggressive thoughts and attitudes did not necessarily mean individuals were mentally ill, Mr Mahoney said. Morgan had not been suffering from delusions, anxieties, phobia, hearing voices, or displaying other signs of mental illness.

"Morgan was vulnerable and isolated but showed no signs of mental illness.

"The team was trying to ... encourage him to sort out his problems."

He admitted, however, that the environment in which Morgan lived was far from ideal. "The levels of mental distress and illness [in some inner- city areas] are amazingly high.

"It is associated with being poor, unemployed and living in a poor environment.

"It should be stressed that most of these people are more of a danger to themselves than to anyone else."

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