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Schizophrenia an 'abandoned illness' in England

UK News | November 14, 2012


Ben Adams

Schizophrenia an 'abandoned illness' in England

Schizophrenia care in England is a dysfunctional system that does not deliver the quality of treatment needed for recovery.

This is according to a new report ‘Abandoned Illness’ by the Schizophrenia Commission, which spent a year scoping the state of care and outcomes for people living with the condition in England.

It found that patients were being "dumped in hospitals wards" where they were being given drug treatments, but then left to watch television, rather than receiving psychological help, such as cognitive behaviour therapy.

The report said that patients with schizophrenia were also more likely to die younger than a person not suffering from the disease, and had very poor job prospects given the stigma of the disease and the side effects of drug treatment.

This is particularly worrying as schizophrenia affects more than 220,000 people in England alone, with one in six people having symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations, at some stage of their lives.

The cost to the NHS in England is also high, with the average stay on an acute mental health unit costing more than £12,000, which racks up to £11.8 billion a year in total.

Professor Robin Murray, who chaired the Commission, said more money should instead be aimed at more efficacious and cost-effective 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.

Drug coercion

Compulsory treatment is also becoming more common, the report added, in part because of the poor state of many acute wards. Coercion levels are up year on year, and increased 5% in the last 12 months alone, it said.

In an interview with Sky News, patient Laura Sherlock told how she was not involved in decisions regarding her treatment regime. “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, a spokesman for the Rethink charity, which commissioned the report, said: “It’s been over 100 years since the term ‘schizophrenia’ was first coined, but care and treatment are still nowhere near good enough. It is a scandal that in 2012 people with schizophrenia are dying 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population.”

He told the BBC that the drugs available now "are not perfect" but are a step in the right direction. But these drugs must be used with talking therapies, he stressed, rather than used in isolation.

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