Social workers in Scotland supervising conditionally discharged mental health patients will have to receive specialist training as mental health officers, or be directly supervised by an MHO.
The Scottish executive has written to directors of social work outlining the requirement, which was recommended in a report last week from the Mental Welfare Commission.
It investigated the care of James Smith, who killed Stuart Robertson in October 2004 while on conditional discharge from Leverndale Hospital in Glasgow. Smith was jailed for life last November after admitting culpable homicide.
The report found a catalogue of errors in the way that Smith’s case was handled by social workersclinicians and nursing staff.
A deterioration in Smith’s condition went largely unnoticed because of substandard report writing, poor communication among professionals and deficiencies in staff training and supervision.
Smith’s case worker at Glasgow Council was not an MHO, although procedures in place at the time said those supervising such cases did not always have to be.
She had alerted managers to her training needs but was told there was little available locally.
There are around 550 social workers in Scotland who are also qualified MHOs. They receive specialist training in mental health and the law.
The social work file on Smith inspected by the MWC lacked information about his psychiatric history, assessment issues, and an assault conviction in 1997 which led to him being detained under mental health legislation. There was also no written evidence of a new care assessment taking place before Smith’s release in April 2003.
This meant the significance of his deteriorating behaviour in summer 2004, when he became agitated and unco-operative at meetings, went unrecognised and so a risk assessment was not carried out.
The executive has also set up a working group including representatives from Glasgow Council to look at the skills needed by social workers working with forensic mental health patients. This will report in 2007.
● Report from www.mwcscot.org.uk