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J R Soc Med. 2010 Oct;103(10):397-402. doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2010.100041.

British psychiatry and its discontents.

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Psychiatry in the UK is currently faced with serious difficulties arising from failure in recruiting British doctors and a high rate of early retirement from the specialty. To diagnose the underlying causes, account must be taken of government policies affecting the NHS in general and mental health services in particular. The latter include an excessive run-down of acute hospital beds, as well as projects aimed at changing the clinical role of psychiatrists and promoting mass treatment of milder mental disorders by non-medical personnel. Psychiatrists have reacted to these developments with anger and dismay, but have as yet reached no consensus with regard to either causal factors or appropriate response. Their uncertainty reflects the need for a firmer grasp of the historical background. Modern British psychiatry was effectively created and moulded as an integral part of the NHS. It flourished as long as the public service framework remained intact, but has suffered a decline since the whole structure began to buckle under the pressure of sustained political assaults. A clearer understanding of this vital connection would help to raise psychiatrists' morale and encourage them to establish common ground with medical colleagues and other healthcare professionals.

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