Letter: Horrors of the mental hospital

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The Independent Online
YOUR FEATURE about a young girl's stay in a psychiatric hospital made compelling reading. However, it is vital to place this experience in context. Inevitably, it was a shock for this family to be plunged into an acute psychiatric ward in one of the most socially deprived areas in inner London. It is no secret that such services face immense challenges. At the Maudsley we serve a population with a prevalence of mental illness that is six times the national average. Pressure on beds is intense and patients have a wide variety of complex needs. It is also well known that there is a desperate shortage of mental health nurses.

Despite these difficulties, there are positive signs. We have many excellent and dedicated staff; patients now play a crucial role in improving conditions; and we are developing a programme to improve the environment on the wards at the hospital.

Mental health is rightly a government priority. At the same time, there is an urgent need for greater public understanding. At the Maudsley we are passionately committed to informing such reasoned debate.

BEN THOMAS

South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, London SE5

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