Letter: Penalising the mentally ill

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The Independent Online
From Dr Mike Launer

Sir: I am a psychiatrist who is part of a team caring for severely ill schizophrenics, both in hospital and in the community. In the past few months I have had three letters from the DSS informing me that patients had been terminated from their Disability Living Allowance benefits on the grounds that they have not been in hospital for a few years.

We are heavy users of the new medications for schizophrenia (eg clozapine), and research in the United States has shown that with clozapine, re-admissions of schizophrenics can be reduced by up to 80 per cent. It is, however, true to say that many of these patients still remain severely disabled in the community. More importantly, it is only due to the patient's own compliance and the efforts of the carers that we can achieve this degree of stability.

The Government claims to be heavily pushing care in the community for schizophrenia, but what is the point when the DSS is penalising sufferers and carers for their efforts by reducing their means to bare subsistence levels?

Yours faithfully,

Mike Launer

Consultant Psychiatrist

Burnley Health Care Trust

Burnley, Lancashire

11 January