Scotland’s Mental Welfare Commission could take health boards to the country’s Mental Health Tribunal for failing to move some patients from Carstairs high-security hospital to more suitable facilities.
From this week, measures in the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 will allow people held at Carstairs to appeal their status and be transferred to medium-secure units if the tribunal decides it is right. Patients can receive compensation if health boards fail to comply with tribunal rulings.
The commission says it knows of patients still being held at Carstairs more than a year after they were recommended for transfer to lower-security facilities. It has written to health boards asking why they have been so slow to organise moves.
The commission’s director, Donny Lyons, said: “Board chief executives say they don’t have the facilities in their area and are looking for alternatives. If we’re not satisfied with their responses we will take up the matter with the chief executive of NHS Scotland.”
Lyons said the commission was aware of some people who had been waiting for a transfer for two or more years. “After May we shall be making sure they can go to the tribunal,” he said. “We can refer [health boards] to the tribunal ourselves.”
The problem stems from the lack of medium-secure units in Scotland. Last year, Carstairs chief executive Andreana Adamson said it was considering moving patients to units in England or changing the layout of its own facilities because of the shortage (Scottish health boards threatened over patients marooned in Carstairs, 24 March).
But the hospital’s director of nursing, Stephen Milloy, said last week that it had since shelved plans to change facilities.
He admitted more patients might be transferred to England over the next few years until four new medium-secure hospitals are completed in Scotland.
“It is going to be taken on a case-by-case basis. If a patient lodges an appeal the relevant health board
will find a more suitable arrangement if the tribunal deems high security inappropriate,” he said. “If they can’t come up with that themselves, transfer to England could be a possibility.”