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The government's proposals to improve the treatment of mentally ill 'care in the community' patients have provoked ...
The government's proposals to improve the treatment of mentally ill 'care in the community' patients have provoked a mixed reaction from MPs and pressure groups, reports The Guardian (p12).

Judi Clements, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: 'They are creating the illusion that this will make a huge difference to public safety, when it is more likely to backfire.'

And Cliff Prior, chief executive of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, said the green paper 'fails to take the chance to give people a right to decent care and treatment' - a right demanded in a 20,000 signature petition delivered yesterday to Alan Milburn, the health secretary.

The Liberal Democrats branded the proposals 'illiberal and inadequate'. And Julia Neuberger, chief executive of the King's Fund, an independent health policy think-tank, said: 'Community care should help people with mental illnesses to live ordinary to live ordinary lives not contain and control them.'

But Michael Howlett, director of the Zito Trust, set up by Jayne Zito, whose husband was killed by a mentally ill patient, welcomed the plans.

Consultation on the green paper is open until 31 March next year. Mr Howlett said: 'We hope it goes ahead as stated and there isn't any kind of watering down over the next few months.'

However, the Guardian's leader (p23) reports that statistically, you are more likely to be killed by a sane than an insane person. The biggest threat which mental patients pose is to themselves. Over 1,000 commit suicide every year.

Research suggests that the compulsory treatment orders would prevent only two killings a year. The paper concludes that the government's advisory committee was right to argue that care in community has not failed, but has not been properly tried. 'That is why it is still too early to introduce community CTOs. Ministers have overridden the Richardson report, which set down strict safeguards for their introduction.

'They want to press ahead with them even though there are not enough community clinics to carry them out. Once structures are in place, use of these orders will be justified. Not before,' it concludes.

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