Better care needed to prevent tragic deaths involving mental health patients, says Alliance

9 November 2006

A right to assessment for better care is the best way to prevent tragic deaths involving people who use mental health services, campaigners said today.

Responding to the court verdict into the death of Michael Gallagher, the Mental Health Alliance said:

"Andrew Howlett asked to be sectioned but his requests were ignored by services and staff did not keep in contact with Andrew to monitor his condition."

"The government’s amendment to the Mental Health Act should give people the right to be treated when they request it - as now applies in Scotland. There should be a duty on mental health services to assess and meet the needs of people with mental health problems when they ask for help. Additional powers of compulsion, including in the community are not the best way of preventing tragic cases like these."

Homicides by people with severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia are rare. According to Home Office figures, in 2002/2003 there were 873 homicides in England and Wales. Of these, less than 4 per cent involved suspects with a mental illness.

In many cases, inquiries have found that a homicide could have been prevented if people with mental health problems seeking help had been listened to by services.