The new Mental Health Act in Scotland could be undermined by poor
preparation and over-stretched mental health officers, experts in
the field have warned.
The enhanced role of the mental health officer set out in the act
is central to its implementation, and five days’ training have been
sanctioned by the Scottish executive for all MHOs across Scotland.
However, training will not begin until next year in some
authorities despite the act being due to come into force from April
The lead role that MHOs will take in the preparation of care and
treatment packages, advanced statements and named persons under the
act will lead to an increased workload.
Professor Juliet Cheetham from the Mental Welfare Commission said
that although aspects of the act were encouraging, social work was
already struggling in Scotland and the act would add to those
Many of these concerns were echoed by Dr Sandra Grant, former chief
executive of the Scottish Health Advisory Service, in a report
commissioned by the Scottish executive into implementing the act
published in March.
Grant identified a lack of psychiatrists, MHOs and medium secure
units as key problems.
Richard Norris, policy officer for the Scottish Association for
Mental Health, said he was concerned about the “state of
unpreparedness in Scotland for the new Act” indicated in the
“We are worried that, while the letter of the law may be followed,
the spirit and the principles behind the new act could fall by the