Letter: Remit of Clunis inquiry too narrow

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Sir: In time, we will regret the narrow remit given to an inquiry investigating the events leading Christopher Clunis to kill, randomly and when very disturbed (Comment; 'Clunis: the wider failures', 23 July). Its role is not just to reach sound conclusions on the crucial facts, distinguishing human error or poor practice from systemic failure.

It must also offer a real chance of effective and wide-ranging change, since the swelling opinion that judges these events to be utterly unacceptable is neither misconceived nor transient. With other London cases causing similar concerns - Guy's Hospital is at present implicated in three - a wider and more authoritative inquiry is needed, addressing its report to ministers, not just health officials.

Recent years have heard numerous government exhortations given to health and social services authorities and criminal justice agencies to improve the care and treatment offered to those such as Mr Clunis. An inquiry must judge whether government by 'code of practice', 'circular letter' and 'NHS contract' means government at all, at a time when community resources for mental health and social care, supported housing and crisis intervention work are so limited, especially in inner London.

An inquiry needs to identify the basic minimum service which discharged patients like Mr Clunis will be guaranteed when returning to the community. It then needs to describe the appropriate means for implementing these promised standards. Perhaps it could start with looking at the potential of the law in this situation.

Mind believes that additional resources for services in the community, and for the improved secure units which the Reed Committee demonstrates are needed, will only be freed when the large, redundant 19th-century hospitals are closed, not before.

The times demand an inquiry that is able to grasp issues such as these, not simply the circumstances of a single case, however poignant these might be.

Yours faithfully,


Legal Director

Mind: National Association for Mental Health

London, W1

25 July