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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 05:10 GMT 06:10 UK
Tories call for mental health re-think
Dr Fox wants more appropriate treatment of patients
Too many people with mental illness are being treated inappropriately in the community, according to the Conservative Party.

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox used a keynote speech on Tuesday to say the care in the community policy - introduced by the Tories - has gone too far and is a threat to patients and the public.

He told guests at the second Conservative mental health summit that the policy is discredited and needs to be overhauled.


Care in the community has been discredited in the public mind by a series of crimes committed by the mentally ill

Dr Liam Fox
Shadow health secretary
The speech is the latest move by the Tories to spell out an alternative health policy and comes ahead of an expected government announcement on a new mental health bill later this week.

Dr Fox called for mentally ill patients to receive more appropriate care.

"Care in the community has been discredited in the public mind by a series of crimes committed by the mentally ill who had fallen between the gaps or come off their medication."

He told the summit: "The pendulum has swung too far and too fast. Many now feel that care in the community was implemented too quickly with inappropriate patient selection and in too many places, there was too little investment in training, finance and related areas.

"There has been, at times, too little care, scant support, and a form of community which has exposed the vulnerable - both patients and the public - to danger," he will say.

Dr Fox proposed a more balanced approach.

"We need a new balance to be struck which ensures the most appropriate treatment and environment for patients - a balance where those that need treatment in a hospital setting receive it and only those able to cope in the community are placed there."

Further study

Dr Fox acknowledged that more money will be needed if fewer patients are to be treated in the community.

He also committed the Conservative Party to carrying out research on "what is required".

"Increasing capacity in the NHS whether for acute hospital beds or secure hospital places will require resources that will have to be contained within the envelope of health spending.

"Additional research is required to make an accurate assessment of exactly what is required and we shall now undertake this," he said.

"It is in everybody's interest to make sure that their mental illness is properly treated and in the right setting, before they are released from custody with a treatable condition."

Dr Fox concluded his speech by saying that the Tories are committed to putting mental healthcare at the heart of a new health strategy.

He said: "The Conservative Party is making mental health a central part of its health policy agenda. It is an issue that must become a matter of public concern and not just private misfortune."

Fresh debate

The move has been welcomed by mental health charity Mind.

Its chief executive Richard Brook said: "The Conservatives are right to suggest that 'an obsession' with a very small number of people who pose a danger to others has overshadowed the need to provide the right type of services to the vast majority of people with mental health problems.

"We agree very strongly that the debate on the future of mental health services needs to be shifted away from dangerousness and towards making sure services are available when people need them."

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 ON THIS STORY
Conservative Health Spokesman Dr Liam Fox
"Too many patients were put into the community"
See also:

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