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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK


Psychiatric services 'failing'

The scene of a murder in Leicester

Mental health groups are calling for an independent inquiry into psychiatric services in Leicestershire in the wake of six cases of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter in the county involving former patients since 1995.

The BBC's Richard Bilton reports: "There have been a series of incidents in recent years"
In the latest incident earlier this month a former psychiatric inpatient was charged with murdering a pensioner and attempting to murder a father and son.

In a previous incident a former patient tried to push a man in front of a train.

Doctors say part of the problem is that mental health services budgets are being cut, and the money is being used to cut hospital waiting lists.

The pressure group LAMP (the Leicestershire Action For Mental Health Project) said that local mental health services are just not up to scratch.

The group outlined three areas where it claims the system is failing:

  • Doctors, both GPs and psychiatrists are failing to recognise and treat patients who desperately need help
  • There is an inconsistent use of the powers of detention under the Mental Health Act
  • Support services are inadequately planned for people who leave hospital

[ image: Lis Kinross:
Lis Kinross: "Disastrous events would have been prevented"
Liz Kinross, from LAMP, said: "We know that at least some of the disastrous events that haven taken place here could have been prevented if mental health service providers had listened more attentively.

"We are contacted by people who know their situation is deteriorating, and are asking for help, but who cannot get that need recognised by doctors.

"We are also contacted by the families and friends of people whose behaviour has changed suddenly and know that they need help, but cannot get psychiatrists or GPs to respond in a way which they think matches up to the situation."

Ms Kinross said an inquiry was needed to ensure that mental health services were equipped to hear the voice of those who were calling for help.

Budget cuts wrong

Liz Kinross and John Boyington discuss the problems in Leicester
Michael Howlett, the director of the campaigning group the Zito Trust, said the number of cases in Leicestershire showed people with mental illnesses in the county were not receiving the care they need.

He said that no patient should be released into the community without a thorough assessment of risk, and properly planned support.

"This just does not seem to be happening in Leicester," he said.

"The problem is that there has been a big cut in the mental health budget recently. It is a very bad step to cut the mental health budget in order to meet the needs in the NHS budgets elsewhere.

"You cannot offer community care effectively for patients and the public if you do not have the resources to do it."

John Boyinton, chief executive of the Leicestershire and Rutland Healthcare Trust, admitted mental health services needed to improve across the country.

He said: "The problems have been recognised - they are not Leicestershire specific - and there is work being undertaken to try to address them."

Mr Boyinton said the number of incidents that had taken place in Leicestershire was not sufficiently high to justify any sense of alarm.

He said: "Of course we should be concerned, of course we should look, but we should not panic about the whole service being, as it was claimed, in disarray, it certainly is not."

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