Compulsory treatment in the community is high on the agenda in the current review of mental health legislation and the government has already announced its intention to introduce a ‘community treatment order’ (CTO; Department of Health, 1998). Concern about the implications of community care has been gathering momentum over the last decade, spurred on by tragedies such as those involving Ben Silcock and Christopher Clunis in the early 1990s. The notion that community care has failed has taken deep root with the media and the government (Department of Health, 1998). This is despite the lack of any evidence to suggest that mental illness is less effectively treated (Johnstone et al, 1991; Anderson et al, 1993) or that violence attributable to the mentally ill is rising (Taylor & Gunn, 1999). It also indicates a tendency to ignore the fact that patients prefer to live in the community (Tyrer, 1998). Psychiatrists, who are increasingly implicated in this purported failure of care, feel besieged. In such a climate, the promise of more power is understandably attractive. However, we feel that psychiatrists should resist pressure for this sort of ‘quick fix’ and reflect upon some of the dilemmas involved.
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