Scientist Attacks `Gutless' Mental Health Policy ; `IoS' Investigation High-Security Hospitals

By Goodchild, Sophie | The Independent (London, England), June 16, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Scientist Attacks `Gutless' Mental Health Policy ; `IoS' Investigation High-Security Hospitals


Goodchild, Sophie, The Independent (London, England)


A leading scientist has attacked the Government for its "ignorant" and intellectually dishonest record on mental health policy.

Lewis Wolpert, Professor of Biology at University College London, said at least 50 MPs would have suffered depression but not one "has the guts to stand up and talk about it".

"The Government are either totally ignorant or intellectually dishonest. It's all about spin for them, and I find that nauseating," said the broadcaster, a self-confessed depressive and user of the anti-depressant Seroxat.

Last week, The Independent on Sunday revealed that more than 400 patients in Britain's high security mental hospitals should have been released years ago but remain locked up because beds cannot be found for them outside.

The paper is campaigning for the transfer of these people to accommodation where they can be treated properly. Some forgotten prisoners have languished in places such as Broadmoor, Ashworth and Rampton for more than 20 years.

Our campaign is backed by senior politicians, mental health campaigners and other high-profile public figures who have experience of mental illness.

There are already more than 2,000 medium secure beds in NHS units across the country but most are already occupied. The Government has pledged pounds 25m for a further 200 such beds, allowing patients to move out of high security psychiatric hospitals.

Health authorities have been ordered to complete the transfer of eligible patients by 2004. However, the Department of Health has acknowledged there are difficulties in moving inappropriately placed patients out of high security hospitals.

Health authorities have to foot the bill for these existing 2,000 secure beds and are reluctant to spend their already tight budgets on mental health provision.

Meanwhile, these patients on the transfer lists of Broadmoor, Ashworth and Rampton are occupying beds which should be given to mentally ill prisoners.

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