Letter: Strains on care of patients as hospitals cut back beds

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The Independent Online
Sir: The success of Virginia Bottomley's much-publicised health service revolution will rely to a great extent on improvements in this country's creaking community care system. There are thousands of people who cannot be discharged from hospital because of a lack of satisfactory 'outside' care.

It is particularly ironic, therefore, that almost unnoticed in the excitement created by the Mrs Bottomley's announcement, her department simultaneously issued an extremely negative reaction to the House of Commons Health Committee's recent report on community care for people with mental health problems.

In response to MPs' urgent calls to address the patchy implementation of community care - and lack of co-ordination between government departments - the Department of Health's proposals are sadly vague, but predictable. Its recipe for unenforceable guidelines and registers to keep track of people who should be receiving regular support in the community as of right, now, cannot work.

It is time the Department of Health accepted that guidelines and registers are no substitute for minimum national standards of community care. We need initiatives to provide 24-hour crisis support services, decent housing and the chance of a job and a future.

Yours faithfully,

LIZ SAYCE

Policy Director

National Association

for Mental Health

London, E15

23 June

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