The P.E.P. report on Mental Health Social Work concludes that qualified social work staff should be in Local Authority services and not in hospitals, because the former offer better opportunities for the development of social care and the hospital social worker is auxiliary to the psychiatrist. There is an implied separation of medical and social care here, as though at some point a patient could be judged ready to be passed from psychiatrist to social worker. This seems to me a retrograde step, since the early recognition and handling of the social factors contributing to or resulting from breakdown is an essential element in the total treatment programme. The P.E.P. study, focused as it is on community care, overlooks the importance of a large part of the hospital social worker's task, namely her contribution to the diagnosis/treatment process. Community care should be regarded as a continuation of the process of social assessment and treatment which begins in hospital alongside medical treatment. It is when this vital stage of social work is missed out, for lack of qualified social workers in the hospital, that social workers are likely to be asked to deal piecemeal with parts of the patient's total family and social problem. Referrals then tend to be made on or near discharge rather than soon after admission, and selection depends entirely on psychiatrists who are fully occupied with the medical side of treatment, and who may not be well informed about social resources or the nature of the casework service which community workers can offer. There are two further points which should be noted in considering the advisability of employing all qualified social work staff in Local Authority services rather than in hospitals. The first is a practical problem, where a Local Authority deals with several hospitals or a hospital serves a number of Local Authority areas. The second is the repercussion on psychiatric social work training. If hospital training placements were closed to P.S.W. students, the level of understanding of mental illness and among P.S.Ws would eventually drop, their usefulness in the community services would thus be diminished. At present, therefore, it seems to me that P.S.Ws are needed in the hospitals, as well as outside. Only so will the best use be made of the developing community services. Irene B. Spackman, A.A.P.S.W.

Letters to the Editor.

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