‘Shameful’ standards of care for schizophrenia patients revealed

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PATIENTS with schizophrenia in England are being let down by the care services and often locked up in institutions more likely to damage their mental health, according to a damning new report.

The standards of care on some mental health wards were described as “shameful” and there were “catastrophic failings” in the treatment of people with the severe mental illness.

The Schizophrenia Commission, an independent inquiry which was set up a year ago, said patients spent too long in “demoralised and dysfunctional” hospital wards, and the problems were exacerbated by public misconceptions that schizophrenics are crazy, violent people who pose a risk to society.

“In this country we’ve become preoccupied with the idea that schizophrenia means a madman with an axe,” said Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatric research at Britain’s Institute of Psychiatry.

The condition is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £12billion a year and that money would be better spent on preventative measures, the report argues.

The report says Britain could learn a lot from countries such as Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands, where the emphasis is on getting patients into calm, caring environments.

A government spokesman said: “We are clear that people with mental health problems should be treated with the same high quality and dignified care as anyone else and we expect the NHS to make this happen.”

The report makes 42 recommendations, including the better use of “recovery houses” in the community, to provide an alternative to hospital admission, which can cost over £300 a night.

Schizophrenia affects around 24 million people globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Patients can suffer from psychotic experiences such as delusions, paranoia, or hearing voices.

Although there is no cure and relatively little is known about its causes, there are many medicines and therapies that can treat some of the most serious symptoms.