Letter: Clunis case reveals the community unprepared for care

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Sir: The long-awaited inquiry into the death of Jonathan Zito has highlighted once again the gaping flaws in community care provision for the mentally ill ('Bottomley admits more help is needed for mentally ill', 25 February).

Was the original decision to move patients in need of care from the hospital bed into the caring community one based on financial considerations or was it a genuine effort to provide an effective service that met patients' needs?

The tragic events that surround Christopher Clunis and his victim Jonathan Zito unfortunately point an accusing finger at a system which tries to provide care in the community on the cheap. The Clunis affair and other recent cases such as the Ben Silcock incident have served to underline the lack of resources. Further to this, an effective community care policy should ideally raise levels of awareness and understanding of mental health issues in the public and not, through underfunding and incompetence, consolidate public anxiety that has the asylum culture at its root.

The main recommendations of the Christopher Clunis report are undoubtedly praiseworthy, but without financial investment they are utterly worthless. Ten million pounds for community-based organisations in London will perhaps scratch the surface of a failing mental health system in the capital; it will do nothing for mental health services in the rest of the country.

More than a decade of cuts in the infrastructure of statutory agencies and health provision has left a community ill-prepared for community care. Rationalisation based solely on financial considerations and not on need has led to policy based on knee-jerk reaction rather than considered planning.

If community care is to work and our newspapers are not to be filled with other tragedies, then the Government must undo the catastrophe it has created.

Yours sincerely,


Service Development

Psychiatric Support and After-Care Workshops

Egham, Surrey

25 February