Letter: Psychiatric beds needed urgently

Sir: Jo Brand is quite correct when she asserts that the chronic state of mental health services in London comes as no surprise to those of us who live and work here ("Jo Brand's Week", 25 January).

Sane, the mental health charity, has consistently warned the Government that wholesale psychiatric bed closures would cause chaos for the mental health service. Nowadays anyone who voluntarily recognises that they need the care and treatment only hospital can offer is unable to find a place. It is only when severe deterioration has occurred that a bed is sought and often only found in a place many hundreds of miles from the patient's home and family.

Some 60 per cent of the homeless in London have serious mental health problems. So where can they go? Not to many of the hostels for the homeless. Sane's count on hostels in London found that 50 per cent were unable to accommodate people with mental health or psychiatric problems. What about prison? The prisons are full of people suffering from mental disorders - 39 per cent of sentenced prisoners and 66 per cent of remand prisoners.

As Jo Brand says, if we don't want to end up with "ghettos" of mentally ill people we had better provide the care sufferers need.

MARJORIE WALLACE

Chief Executive, Sane

London NW1

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