Pounds 1bn TO END MURDER IN THE COMMUNITY; Shake-Up for Mental Health

Article excerpt

A pounds 1BILLION revolution in care in the community was launched yesterday.

The shake-up will stop thousands of severely mentally ill people being abandoned on the streets - and put an end to the tragic catalogue of murders and suicides.

In the past year alone Health Department researchers discovered 50 murders were carried out by mentally ill people.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson admitted care in the community "has failed" and ordered a wide ranging shake-up of outdated mental health laws.

The key planks of the overhaul announced by Mr Dobson are:

SPECIALIST secure units in each NHS region.

LOCAL accommodation for short-term 24- hour nursing care and supervision.

MORE monitoring of discharged mental patients, especially those who refuse medicine.

24-HOUR crisis hotlines and emergency teams.

MORE acute beds, hostels and support accommodation.

EXTRA counselling and advice on medicine and therapies.

A NEW framework to make local services tailormade.

Delighted Jayne Zito, who has campaigned for changes since her husband Jonathan was murdered by a schizophrenic in 1992, said: "This is tremendous news.

"At last it seems some good will come from the tragedy of all those families and patients whose lives have been devastated by a policy so ill-conceived and badly implemented it's become a national scandal."

The campaigning trust Mrs Zito set up will be part of a high-powered committee to draw up a blueprint for mental health care by next April.

Junior Health Minister Paul Boateng said: "Safety is at the heart of what we are doing - safety for patients, carers, victims and the community.

"We see this as an urgent priority because mental health services have suffered scandalous neglect for many years.

"Vulnerable patients have sometimes been left abandoned and occasionally they have been a danger to themselves or others. …