Registers of mental patients criticised

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NEW SUPERVISION registers for mentally-ill people who pose a risk to themselves or the public were criticised by leading psychiatrists yesterday as 'poorly thought-out' and a 'waste of time', writes Liz Hunt.

Professor David Goldberg, of the Institute of Psychiatry, London, said the registers were 'stigmatising'. Professor Chris Thompson, registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: 'Where the services are well organised the register does not add anything. In the badly-organised service . . . it won't do anything to improve things.'

The registers, due to come in on 1 October, were a key part of the Government's response to several incidents involving mentally-ill people.

A large number of health authorities failed to introduce the registers because of practical problems or because they did not think they would be of value. Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, yesterday issued revised guidance to meet the criticisms of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

However, at a conference organised by the RCP, Professor Goldberg said the registers presented many problems and few benefits. 'As people . . . hear that a patient is on the register, landladies and hostel wardens will not want them; and there could be problems with life insurance policies and mortgages.'