A judge has warned of the "appalling human suffering" -- including
suicide and homicide -- that could result from too many hospital beds for
the mentally ill being closed for good.
Lady Cosgrove, Scotland's first woman judge, said the implementation of care in the community, which meant the discharge of the mentally ill from hospitals into the outside world, left "much to be desired" in some areas.
Community care should be pursued "with enthusiasm tempered with caution", she said.
Lady Cosgrove sounded her warning in a lecture in Glasgow last night, in which she also spoke of the "urgent need" for new mental health legislation, an area where the law was "fragmented, uncertain and archaic".
Lady Cosgrove, who chaired the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland before her appointment to the bench in July, said community care was a good policy but needed to be properly funded and organised if it was to provide long-term benefits.
Declaring that for many patients the return from mental hospital to the community could create "a nightmare with terrible consequences", she said there was a danger of closing down too many hospital beds -- with the result that re-admission to hospital could be difficult to achieve for those with deteriorating health.
"The safety net of a fast-track route to hospital must not be removed from the system," she said. "Patients who do not prosper in the community must be able to catch the revolving door which leads them back into hospital.
"If they cannot do so there will be appalling human suffering including suicide and homicide.
"In short, the notion of community care as an all-embracing solution to mental illness should not be allowed to flourish," said Lady Cosgrove, delivering the annual James Smart Memorial Lecture to Strathclyde police in Glasgow.
"We must not underestimate the need for sufficient hospital beds, nor should we ignore the grim and impoverished atmosphere of many of our major psychiatric institutions."
[ Home] [News]