Worries over deaths in police custody

The introduction of the Scottish Mental Health (Care and
Treatment) Act 2003 has been put back six months because of fears
that services would not be ready in time.

The Scottish executive said the decision had been made after
listening to stakeholders’ concerns.

It is believed that there were particular difficulties with
recruiting mental health tribunal panel members and client

The decision to delay the act from April to October 2005, while
generally supported by mental health groups, has raised concerns
that mental health officers could be left grappling with two

Christina Naismith, chair of the mental health group at the
Association of Directors of Social Work, said mental health
officers had already started to be trained for the act’s provisions
and would now have to be retrained in existing regulations

“Training has started across the country and authorities will have
to adapt to this. People can’t keep two acts in their heads,” she

Naismith said that some areas had not recruited enough tribunal
panellists. As a result too much pressure would have been placed on
those tribunals that were up and running.

She said that while significant progress had been made they did not
want to be in a position where the new system might fail. “The
delay will allow people to come at it in a more measured way rather
than running things at top speed.”

Each tribunal will be chaired by a legal professional and have a
doctor and someone from the care sector, which could include a
service user or carer. At least one tribunal will sit in each local
authority, with more in major cities. They will make decisions on
compulsory detention and on support and care packages.

Donald Lyons, director of the Mental Welfare Commission, said more
consistency was needed in the way tribunals were going to
“I don’t think they are fit for purpose yet and if by taking
another six months it means they will be running consistently then
that will have a lot of support.”

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