Victims seek influence in freeing of attackers

Pressure group Schizophrenia: A National Emergency has called
for relatives of victims of attacks by people diagnosed mentally
ill to be more informed over discharges.

The charity, which is launching a campaign – ‘The Right to Know
and be Heard’ – met junior health minister John Bowis last week, as
the Department of Health confirmed it was reviewing the Mental
Health Act 1983.

SANE pressed for greater sensitivity to be shown to victims when
an offender is applying for discharge from psychiatric

Grainne McMorrow, legal and policy consultant at SANE, said the
agency was opposed to the presence of a victim at a tribunal. But
she added: ‘There should be a notification requirement- and views
should be sought, by way of a questionnaire or interview with a
social worker.’ This should also apply to the nearest relative or
carer of the patient.

Kate Harrison, legal director of MIND, said involving victims
could introduce an element of retribution. ‘The hospital is a place
of care and treatment and the grounds for people being there are in
the Act. If they are not fulfilled, they should be discharged.’

Tribunals are already required to assess the danger an
individual may pose, she added. For the vast majority of cases of
detained patients, there are no victims because there has been no

The Department of Health is about to introduce ‘outcome scales’
for mental health, as part of the Health of the Nation programme.
Four of the ten scales will be measures of social care.

The aim is to encourage health authorities to monitor
improvements in how people with mental health problems

Edward Peck, director of the Centre for Mental Health Services
Development, said the initiative could be used to demonstrate to
politicians and the public the importance of investment in care in
the community.

But he warned that the outcome scales must be incorporated into
routine professional practice. ‘If they are seen as something you
have to do, to fill in a form, it could be a very unhelpful,
resisted, and therefore inaccurate paper-chase.’

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