Letter: Victorian 'care in the community'

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Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith''s article of 13 May, "The man who abolished madness", arouses the ire of the consultant psychiatrist Dr Peter White (letter, 14 May).

Those of us in the profession who appreciate Largactil but would like to convince colleagues that the meaning of schizophrenic communication may be understood and used to help patients alongside drug treatment are not assisted in this aim by such hyperbole and wholesale attacks on psychiatrists for hospitalisation. Mr Whittam Smith should read the report of the mid- 19th-century Royal Commission on the dreadful conditions endured by the insane in the community then - often cared for by lay people. Laingians are misinformed to suggest that all compassion and "attunement" resides with them. To quote another literary reference, Charles Lamb, whose devotion to his sister Mary was exemplary, nevertheless from time to time found it necessary for her to have a spell in hospital for her madness.

There is to be an international conference in October in London on psychotherapy and schizophrenia which will address some of the problems.