The Mental Health Alliance has told health secretary Alan
Milburn that the draft mental health bill is “fundamentally flawed,
unworkable and unethical”.
Alliance representatives handed in a “giant letter” setting out
the group’s response to the draft bill to the Department of
Health on 16 September, the final day of consultation.
The letter describes the bill as “a backward step” and claims it
fails to take account of the views of people who use mental health
“We want a bill, but it must be one that accords with human
rights legislation and that reduces the need for compulsion,” it
states. “It must include a legal right to care and treatment, a
right to advocacy at all stages where compulsion is required and a
right to make an advance statement.”
The alliance’s concerns were echoed by other
The British Association of Social Workers warned that the bill
“would take mental health services back to the days of the Lunacy
Act”, while the Royal College of Psychiatrists called for the bill
to be scrapped.
“We do not see [our objections to the bill] being resolved
except by such a major rewrite of key areas of the bill that it
might be thought better to start again with a different rationale
in mind,” college president Michael Shooter says in a letter to the
The alliance, which is made up of more than 50 organisations,
said the bill would increase the number
of people subject to compulsory treatment, alienate those who
might seek help and undo the work carried out to reduce the stigma
of mental distress.
It has also warned that the grounds for compulsion could now
apply to a wider range of people. The alliance wants the government
to rethink the proposals and consult the sector. It said tribunals
should include a professional from a social work or similar
background to ensure broader expertise and that the functions of
the Mental Health Act Commission should be preserved in one
The alliance will lobby parliament on 23 October.