Impact of mental health service cutsPosted: October 21, 2013
The wider implications should be heeded of the sentencing of a homeless man with paranoid schizophrenia for the stabbing to death of two Big Issue sellers (Report, 16 October). As John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, observes, the tragedy is an opportunity to reflect on the impact of cuts to mental health services. I visit mental health facilities on a weekly basis to review the detention of compulsorily detained patients. It has been increasingly apparent for months that patients are being admitted to hospitals hundreds of miles from where they live because of the lack of beds in their own locality.
This impression is now given an evidential basis by the BBC and Community Care investigations which used freedom of information requests to identify that at least 1,711 psychiatric beds have closed since April 2011, most of them in acute adult wards, older people’s wards and psychiatric intensive care units. Not only is admission to facilities far from home detrimental to the wellbeing of patients because of the disruption to their support networks, the increased complexity of setting up and monitoring their care after discharge from hospital in rare cases compromises public safety.
It is an inadequate response by the Department of Health to cite increased numbers of service users being seen in their own homes. Improvements in community care are obviously welcome, but do not obviate the need to provide appropriate hospital care for those who are acutely ill. Depositing people far from their homes is reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Ship of Fools and invokes medieval attitudes towards people who are mentally unwell.
Professor emeritus Nick Gould
Department of social and policy sciences, University of Bath
Via http://www.theguardian.com via Matthew