A DOCTOR has offered reassurance to people worried about a plan to house people with schizophrenia in Malvern Link.

The unease was prompted by West Mercia Housing Group's proposal to turn St Michael's Nursing Home, in Ranelagh Road, into 21 flats for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship and Headway, a charity supporting people with brain injuries.

Dr Alison Gray, a senior registrar in psychiatry at St Ann's Orchard, Malvern, said schizophrenia affects one person in every 100 and is highly treatable with modern medicine.

A schizophrenic breakdown is a frightening experience for sufferers, most of whom cope with dignity and courage, but popular prejudice often prevents them living their lives as ordinary citizens.

"Most people make a reasonable recovery, but may have further episodes," she said.

"A fair number find it too stressful to live with their families. The whole dynamics of family life can make it difficult for them to stay well and it is better for them to live in a group home."

Dr Gray said people with schizophrenia were no more violent as a group than other members of the public.

"It's rare for anyone with schizophrenia to assault anyone. If they do it's likely to be because they're not taking their medication and not getting the social support they need. Living in a low-stress secure environment would decrease the risk of a relapse," said Dr Gray.

The National Schizophrenia Fellowship has offered to talk to residents' groups about their work and provides an advice service on 0208 974 6814 (10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday).