Campaigners in Wales speak out on dropped mental health bill

Mental health campaigners in Wales hope the Westminster government’s decision to drop the draft mental health bill means the Welsh assembly can concentrate on fully implementing its own legislation.

The Wales Alliance for Mental Health campaigned for the bill not to be introduced in the country because it said services weren’t up to English standards and a shortage of psychiatrists and approved social workers meant the system wouldn’t be able to cope with the extra demands placed on it by the proposed measures.

Campaigners were also worried that the work involved for the assembly, social services and health bodies in implementing the draft bill would divert resources away from fully introducing its own mental health national service framework, already years behind schedule.

Bill Walden-Jones, chief executive of mental health charity Hafal, said: “Over the last few months assembly officials have been forced to use their energies to identify the considerable resources that would have been required to implement this bill – dragging all attention from improving services.”

The draft bill’s emphasis on compulsion also contradicted efforts in Wales to deliver more services in the community, said Ruth Coombs, policy manager at Mind Cymru.

“We want therapeutic intervention and community services so that people are supported before there is a need for them to come under the legislation.”

However, Coombs added that if changes to existing legislation were pushed through by 2008 the workforce and system still wouldn’t be able to cope.

“Statutory duties will inevitably take priority. We need to ensure national service framework delivery isn’t compromised by the requirements of new legislation,” she said.



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