UK & World News
Treatment Of Schizophrenia Patients 'Shameful'
Standards of care in some mental health units are so poor that they make patients worse, not better, a new report claims.
An independent inquiry into schizophrenia describes the care given to some patients on secure wards as "shameful".
The Schizophrenia Commission found staff in some units are burnt out and demoralised, and are shut away in offices doing paperwork rather than talking to patients.
The commission's report, An Abandoned Illness, says patients are given drug treatments and then left to watch television, when they should be receiving psychological help, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
On average a stay on an acute mental health unit costs more than £12,000.
Professor Robin Murray, who chaired the commission, said more money should instead be aimed at better - and cheaper - intervention in the early stages of illness, which can reduce the likelihood of patients deteriorating to the point that they need acute care.
"People are being badly let down by the system in every area of their lives," he said.
"People with psychosis need to be given the hope that it is perfectly possible to live a fulfilling life after diagnosis.
"We have no doubt that this is achievable."
Schizophrenia affects more than 220,000 people in England alone. One in six people will have symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations, at some stage of their lives.
The Commission calls for clearer warnings on the use of cannabis, to reduce the risk of schizophrenia.
It also says psychiatrists should improve their prescribing to ensure patients are on effective treatment with the minimum of side effects.
Laura Sherlock used to be a professional trombone player and toured the world, despite suffering delusions and feeling suicidal.
She was put on anti-psychotic treatment that left her unable to play music.
"I felt numb, deathly tired and barely able to move or think," she said.
"When I stopped taking my tablets I was given medication by injections - I had no say in my own treatment."
Paul Jenkins, of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: "It is a scandal that in 2012 people with schizophrenia are dying 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population and that only 7% are able to get a job.
"Too many people are falling through the gaps in the system and ending up in prison or homeless."