Voluntary sector staff in Scotland might be unprepared for the
introduction of the new Mental Health Act this week because some
have been unable to undergo training, campaigners fear.
Two of the main voluntary sector providers of care services say
training in the workings of the new act has focused mainly on the
legal responsibilities of front-line staff, such as mental health
officers, and neglected community care staff.
With the new act – which came in on 5 October – strengthening
compulsion powers and introducing community-based compulsory
treatment orders, community care staff are likely to have a greater
role in caring for clients.
Nigel Henderson, chief executive of service provider Penumbra, said
most of the emphasis had been on training the statutory
“A community treatment order may say where a person has to live or
spend some of their time – that is likely to be in the voluntary
sector but there’s been less emphasis on bringing staff up to
speed,” he said.
“A number of our staff have been able to piggyback onto local
authority training courses but that’s by no means uniform across
The Scottish Association for Mental Health backed Henderson’s
concerns. Legal officer Sandra McDougall said training had focused
on MHOs and psychiatrists at the expense of nursing staff.
“The executive focus has been on front-line compulsory duties but
part of a community-based order could be to stay in a particular
treatment facility or visit a community care service,” she
She also raised concerns that the new Mental Health Tribunal would
not be able to cope with the expected demand because case hearings
would be more thorough and many people held under the old act would
have waited to appeal their case under the new act.
But tribunal president Eileen Davie said it was prepared, and had
estimated the six tribunal sites would handle 3,500 to 5,000 cases
in the first year.
“People may want to seek a revocation of an order when they may not
have done before but we have taken account of that,” she added.