5 APRIL 1957, Page 17

Letters to the Editor

Mental Dealt hntanship Kenneth Robinson, MP,

P. D. Pike, Hanno

Keir Hardie Henry Pefling Strix Robert Waterhouse Taper and Berkeley Taper Fair Deal for the Clergy Rev. Victor H. Beaton Doctors' Pay Dr. Basil Lee Crofting Childhood Alan Cameron,

Dr. Murdo Mackenzie

Ironelads Sir Robert Hyde Animal Telepathy C. A. E. Osman


SIR,—Dr. Donald Johnson suggests that I am un- willing to criticise the mental health services we both wish to see improved. I have done so on many occasions, but I do acknowledge that a dilemma faces those of us who agitate for reform. if we try to show a balanced picture, giving due weight to the remark- able advances of the last two decades, the case for reform appears less urgent than it is, and we invite charges of complacency. If, on the other hand, we highlight the deficiencies to the exclusion of all else we risk doing damage in try) ways—by discouraging those who need treatment from seeking it voluntarily, and by deterring the recruitment of the nursing and other staff so desperately needed and upon whom real progress so largely depends. Dr. Johnson is indeed fortunate; for him no dilemma exists. He will not worry that no voluntary patient, •or nursing recruit, would go anywhere near the mental hospital of his distorted description.

He complains of my charge that he offered no constructive suggestions and refers me to his book— which, incidentally, I have read—and to two of his speeches in the House of Commons. My letter, however, dealt with his two articles in your paper, and my charge stands. So far as the Amsterdam Experiment is concerned, I heard Dr. Querido him- self lecture on it several years ago, and I was aware of Dr. Johnson's enthusiasm. But there is no need for him to apply his shoulder to this door, since it is wide open. In many places, notably Gloucester, York and Nottingham, this kind of community-care service is already functioning, though it can never become a complete substitute for hospital treatment. Let me assure Dr. Johnson that it is not only along these lines that 'the most forward-looking thinkers' are thinking.

In an attempt to justify one out of the many Smears contained in his articles, he refers me to Circular HM (56) 85, of which I must confess I had only seen a brief summary. I have now examined the circular and can find no reference whatever to theft of patients' belongings by mental nurses. It would have been more gracious of him to withdraw his accusation since he cannot substantiate it.

Dr. Johnson takes me to task for mentioning that in some cases of certification a second doctor's consent is required, since these cases are relatively few, which I agree. To quote my sentence in full, however, would have revealed the falsity of his original assertion, so he omits six words from the middle, thereby obscuring the fact that a magistrate's consent is in all cases required. This disingenuous selection of facts well illustrates his method of con- troversy. Nor is he accurate in stating that the figure Of 20,000 certified admissions has remained virtually

constant for twenty-five years; it has fluctuated considerably. I could reply, with equal relevance, that the proportion of admissions under certificate has fallen from 37 per cent. in 1948 to 22 per cent. in 1955, Your contributor is determined to break what he calls the 'conspiracy of silence' that surrounds mental illness. No one much minded Don Quixote's tilting at windmills because little damage was done. Dr. Johnson's wild assault on an enemy hardly more subitantial could, if taken seriously, do positive harm to the cause he claims to have at heart. —Yours


House of Commons, SW I