Forensic psychiatry in Britain

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1995;23(2):249-60.


This report provides an overview of the criminal forensic mental health system in Great Britain, that is England and Wales. The report is based on the author's participant observation as a visiting consultant psychiatrist at a regional forensic facility in Manchester, England during early 1994. British law casts a net over a wider population of forensic patients than does U.S. law. There is a forensic care system in the British National Health Service that is parallel to and independent of the general psychiatric care system. The forensic system provides continuity of care from prison through maximum security hospitals to regional medium secure facilities, and finally, into the community. Community care is provided by psychiatrists and social workers and, if necessary, by psychiatric nurses. This system appears to provide effective treatment for persons with major mental disorders and histories of violence. Differences between Britain and the United States in philosophy of government, in law, and in forensic training and practice are discussed. The fundamental difference is a greater British belief in the capacity of government to act in the best interests of the individual. Current problems in the British health care system and plans to privatize some services are also discussed.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Forensic Psychiatry / trends*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Patient Care Team / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Patient Care Team / trends
  • Privatization / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United Kingdom
  • Violence / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Wales