Letter: Balancing act for beds

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The Independent Online
Sir: Rosie Waterhouse ('Does the community care?', 19 August) highlights the vast changes in the provision of care for mentally ill people over the last 30 years, much of which have been fuelled by dogma, rhetoric and political expediency, leaving, as it now stands, a seriously unbalanced situation, with a grave shortage of hospital beds for acutely disturbed patients.

In my role as an on-call psychiatrist, I regularly struggle to find beds for those that are the most deranged and dangerous. Only last weekend, it took me one hour to assess a severely ill, violent schizophrenic man, but six hours of negotiation with health service managers to find him a safe haven in hospital. In these circumstances, marginally less ill patients frequently have to forgo hospitalisation, with the 'community' taking the burden and the risk of care.

Yours faithfully,

SIMON THACKER

Erdington, Birmingham

20 August

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