Letter: Reasons to register mentally ill

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Sir: Your coverage of World Mental Health Day (10 October) concentrated almost exclusively on criticism of the Government's supervision registers for mentally ill people. Your readers must have been left confused about why the Government had introduced the registers at all.

Their implementation is one of several initiatives made in response to public concern about the needs of people with serious mental health problems and how they should be met. The Government has never pretended that supervision registers on their own are a panacea for the problems of caring for severely mentally ill people in the community. Rather, registers are a means by which services can identify those most in need and give them the appropriate priority for care and follow-up.

This is a sensible arrangement which the Royal College of Psychiatrists has recommended in the past, and which has indeed been practised in some areas.

It will be important to identify and disseminate the best practice in implementing and maintaining these registers, so that the concerns that have been expressed about stigma, confidentiality and so on, can be overcome. Our draft inter-agency guidance, issued on Monday explains how we see this happening.

Taken with the other measures set out in Virginia Bottomley's Ten-Point Plan, the registers will allow resources to be targeted more effectively, thereby not only improving the lives of people with serious mental health problems, but also delivering a service which is better value for money.

Yours faithfully,



Mental Health Task Force

Department of Health

London, SW1

12 October