LETTERS: Proper services, not compulsory treatment

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The Independent Online
From Ms Liz Sayce Sir: We are bemused by your editorial comment (17 January) that the death of Georgina Robinson in the Edith Morgan Psychiatric Unit demonstrates "how dangerous community care can be, even when it is available". It does no such thing. The patient who killed Georgina Robinson was, at the time of the killing, detained compulsorily in hospital under the Mental Health Act of 1983. He was living in the community. He was receiving treatment.

The proposed solution - to introduce new powers of compulsory treatment in the community - is irrelevant to this case. It would mean forced treatment - for instance, holding someone down to inject them - in their own homes. The drugs being injected (neuroleptics) are themselves implicated in at least one death a week.

Many people with mental health problems - especially black people, who are already more likely to be treated against their will than white and who make up half the unexpected deaths of detained people - are extremely worried by the prospect of yet more forced and potentially dangerous treatment. For many, it will mean they are less, not more, inclined to go anywhere near the mental health services.

There are much better solutions: to learn all the specific lessons from the inquiry into Ms Robinson's tragic death, including improving staff training and hospital security; and to provide people with mental health problems with decent mental health services, meeting nationally agreed standards.

On 24 January, Tessa Jowell MP is introducing a private members' bill giving people rights to community mental health services, such as housing with support, crisis counselling and help to find work. Properly resourced services, not more coercion, form the basis of a humane mental health system.

Yours sincerely, LIZ SAYCE Policy Director Mind London, E15

17 January