Mental care 'needs pounds 500m' Mental health care 'in crisis'

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The Independent Online

An investment of pounds 500m is needed to stop the crisis in care for schizophrenics and reduce their 1-in-10 suicide rate, the National Schizophrenia Fellowship said yesterday.

Gary Hogman, research officer with the NSF, told the Royal College of Psychiatrists winter meeting in Stratford-upon-Avon that a multi-million pound investment was needed urgently if proper care was to be delivered to the mentally ill. The pounds 500m would be spent on staff and staff training.

The call comes a week after an inquiry set up by the Government into 39 homicides and 240 suicides involving the mentally ill produced fierce criticism of the National Health Service.

The report, by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, found many patients who killed or committed suicide had lost contact with the psychiatric services or were refusing to comply with treatment.

In a paper called Carers, Crisis and Cash, Mr Hogman said that unbearable strain was being put on informal carers who look after schizophrenics - 90 per cent of whom live in the community.

More than four in five carers were providing "crisis" care - caring for someone who has had a severe relapse in mental health and is a danger to themselves and others. And 70 per cent of carers had experienced physical or mental health problems themselves "as a result of the extra burden of caring".

"NSF members are frequently made aware that you have to have a crisis before you can access the mental health services," said Mr Hogman.

"Generally the situation has not improved over the last 10 or 20 years. Informal carers have been left out of the equation and not given the information or support they deserve."

Mr Hogman added: "If what we have now is 'community care' then it is working effectively for only a small minority with severe mental illness. More resources must be made available or the Government must admit the policy cannot been implemented."