UK’s schizophrenia sufferers ‘frightened and desperate’

Britain's psychotics and schizophrenia sufferers are frightened "far too much of the time" and need more support, an MP has said.

Conservative backbencher Charles Walker, who spoke out to earlier this year about his own mental health problems, used a Commons debate yesterday evening to call for the government to move faster to provide support for people with schizophrenia.

He told MPs he was deeply concerned that the life expectancy of schizophrenia sufferers is up to 20 years less than the national average. High smoking and obesity levels, combined with drug therapies, leave them facing a "terrible and desperate situation", Walker said.

He criticised the number of schizophrenic patients who are locked up in secure units and noted that only one in ten people diagnosed with psychosis are in work.

"We have the bit between our teeth, we are moving ahead and mental health is being talked about," Walker told MPs.

"But schizophrenia and psychosis is a difficult area for politicians and for the public, because so much misinformation and nonsense has been talked about it for so many years.

"It is going to be the hardest mountain to climb, but climb it we must, because we have an obligation and a duty in this country to take everyone with us. We must not leave people behind because they are ill but take them with us on a journey together — a journey towards wellness."

Health minister Norman Lamb said the government is going "further than ever before" in prioritising mental health.

But the Care Quality Commission has stopped conducting in-patient surveys on acute mental health wards, leaving big gaps in information about the quality of service provision which Walker is concerned about.

"We need a more patient-centred service," Walker told before yesterday's debate.

"We need to listen to patients more, listen to carers more, in the process of care and treatment. We need to find new drug therapies that don't make people feel so bloody rotten. We need to improve early interventions, and we also need uniform reporting. if you have heart disease or cancer, you're well aware of what's going on."

A roundtable meeting on schizophrenia hosted by the Department of Health will take place next week featuring leading charities, medical experts and others.