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Thursday, July 15, 1999 Published at 00:12 GMT 01:12 UK


Health

Euro boost for mental health

Mental health has become "a Cinderella service", say charities

Six leading British charities are joining a European campaign to improve mental health.

On the day government ministers receive the findings of a review set up to consider a root and branch reform of mental health legislation, the charities are launching a petition to drive up standards of treatment.

The Better Act Now! campaign is part of a Europe-wide movement coordinated by EUFAMI, a European umbrella organisation of voluntary groups.

It will present the petitions to the President of Finland on World Mental Health Day in October.

Finland holds the presidency of the European Union between June and December and it has identified mental health as a priority area.

The British petition is launched on Thursday by the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (NSF), the Manic Depression Fellowship, Mind, the Mental Health Foundation, the Richmond Fellowship and the Mental After Care Association.

It states: "We, the undersigned, demand that everyone affected by severe mental health problems should by right have access, when required, to prompt, effective, high quality and up-to-date mental health care and services."

According to the NSF, one in three people with a severe mental illness is turned away from care when they need it, often in a crisis.

Its research also shows that one in four have been refused admission to a hospital bed.

'Cinderella service'

The government has recently announced £14.5m for secure beds and £19m for 24-hour staff beds, assertive outreach teams and new drugs.

But mental health charities say this is not enough for a sector they describe as "the Cinderella service" because of persistent underfunding in past years.

The NSF says the review of mental health legislation is "a once in a generation opportunity" to improve treatment.

It wants rights to "decent care" for the mentally ill, a legal right to an independent second opinion, a strong inspectorate to monitor care, legally binding advance directives so patients can plan what happens to them before a crisis occurs and independent advocates for all assessed under mental health legislation.

The review is thought likely to recommend that people deemed a risk to the community be forced to take their medication under threat of being readmitted to hospital.

It is a response to a series of high-profile cases of community care patients who have attacked members of the public after lapses in taking their medication.

Many mental health charities are against compulsion and argue that offering a good network of support to patients would provide the safeguards the public needs.

The results of the review panel's findings are not expected to be made public for several weeks.



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