This is the final contribution to a five part series on risk in psychiatry. Bowden (1997) has cast a bleak eye on the realities of making risk decisions about difficult and dangerous patients, identifying the essential subjectivity of these decisions and the cognitive distortions that psychiatrists can undergo to make them apparently easier; distortions that can blind the clinician to impending disaster. Morgan (1997) emphasised the limitations of a simplistic ‘risk factor’ approach to the management of potentially suicidal patients, concluding that the priority is the refinement of our basic clinical skills (and by implication deployment of successful treatments for our patients' illnesses). Prins (1997) analysed the particular difficulties faced by mental health review tribunals hearing the cases of Restricted patients. The perhaps unsurprising conclusion is that tribunals make bad decisions when presented with inadequate information (which begs the question why not adjourn and seek the information required before proceeding?). Roy (1997) has addressed a range of risks faced by Trusts and the clinicians who work for them. There is a clear demand that Trusts develop risk management strategies: of necessity these strategies will discourage inherently risky behaviour such as inadequate staffing of in-patient units and the devolution of inappropriate levels of responsibility to staff who are inadequately trained or supported.
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