Letter: Community care needs action, not promises

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Government's plan to introduce registers for the 'seriously mentally ill' (28 December) is yet another smoke screen hiding the deficiencies of community care arrangements for thousands of people with mental health problems - at the end of a wasted year that has seen many promises but very little action. There would be no need for risk registers if the existing community care legislation was being properly implemented by the Government and people had access to key workers and 24-hour crisis services, along with a reasonable chance of getting a job and a roof over their heads.

Instead, exactly a year after Ben Silcock sparked such concern by entering a lion's cage at London Zoo, and just over a year after Jonathan Zito was killed by a man left to fend for himself in the community with virtually no support, the Health Secretary is still attempting to cure the symptoms rather than the problem itself.

The time for strategies, plans and registers - and all the other excuses for inaction - is surely over. What we need in 1994 is concrete action and resources to improve the community care system - and that means switching some of the pounds 2bn still spent on long-stay hospitals to more productive use in the community.

The public has a right to know whether the Government means what it says. Virginia Bottomley talks of her belief in community care but is part of a Government which seems incapable of, or unwilling to make it really work and get the services on the ground, where they are really needed.

Yours sincerely,

JUDI CLEMENTS

National Director

Mind: National Association for Mental Health

London, W1

30 December

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