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Dysfunctional NHS care for schizophrenia sufferers in the UK

Published on 14/11/2012

Care for schizophrenia in the UK has been labelled as ‘shameful’ and ‘dysfunctional’ by a report from a leading panel of mental health specialists.

Schizophrenia patients in Britain are too often locked up in "mad house" institutions where they are left to watch television rather than receive psychological help, according to a damning report.


Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions, affecting around 24 million people worldwide. Patients can suffer from delusions, paranoia and hearing voices, but it is a common misconception that people with schizophrenia are violent.

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but medicines and therapies can treat its serious symptoms. However, many patients have limited access to treatment, and the World Health Organisation says that more than half of all schizophrenic sufferers do not get appropriate care.

Pessimism pervading the system

The British report, called the Abandoned Illness, found that there are catastrophic failings in treatment of schizophrenia in the UK.

Written by a panel of mental health specialists known as the Schizophrenia Commission, the report revealed that patients with schizophrenia in Britain are too often locked up in ‘mad house’ institutions that are more likely to make them worse rather better.

The panel heard evidence in person from 80 experts and sufferers of the condition, and 2,500 more gave evidence online.

They found that nursing and other healthcare staff working in schizophrenia services in the NHS were often demoralised and burnt out, with pessimism pervading the system.

“A period of respite and calm”

Experts say that Britain could learn from countries like Switzerland, the Netherland and Denmark, where health systems focus on getting patients into calm and caring environments, rather than spending funds on security.

Among 42 of the report’s recommendations was the suggestion that money would be better spent on early intervention teams, which help people before their hallucinations or delusions become severe.

It also calls for better use of recovery houses in the community. Commission chairman Professor Sir Robin Murray, from King's College London, said: "If you have psychosis and your mind is disturbed, you need a period of respite and calm.

"But especially in inner cities, you get admitted to something like a madhouse. The nurses are often overwhelmed."

Psychiatric cover has a lower perceived value

Whilst patients can get cover for private psychiatric care on their health insurance policy, many insurers say that it is not a particularly popular benefit.

Experts have said that customers prefer to opt for benefits like dental and optical cover, despite more than one in four of us likely to be affected by some form of mental illness at some point.

Private psychiatric cover will meet the costs of psychiatric outpatient treatment. You can also include inpatient and day patient treatment for conditions like schizophrenia and clinical depression on some policies for an increased premium.

For more information, compare health insurance quotes online.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  NHS and Hospitals
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