Winterton to consider MPs’ amendment to bill

The government has hinted it may compromise over plans in the Mental Health Bill to abolish the requirement that compulsory care should have therapeutic benefit.

Health minister Rosie Winterton (pictured) stated last week that the government would consider a proposal by backbench Labour MPs to ensure that people could only be sectioned for treatment “intended to alleviate or prevent a deterioration in their condition”.

The hint came after the government overturned a Lords amendment requiring that treatment was “likely” to alleviate or prevent deterioration. The latter would have effectively maintained the Mental Health Act 1983’s “treatability test”, and was backed by the Mental Health Alliance, the coalition of 80 charities, user bodies and professional associations campaigning against the government’s proposals.

Last week’s reversal means the bill would require that treatment only be “appropriate, taking into account the nature and degree of the mental disorder”.

But Winterton said she would consider the backbenchers’ proposal, which Conservative shadow health minister Tim Loughton also said could provide a workable compromise.

Winterton said the treatability test meant there was a “perverse incentive for people not to co-operate with treatment”, and the compromise plan went some way to addressing this.

Alliance chair Andy Bell said: “It’s important that they do give serious consideration to whether intended benefit will prevent unnecessary detention.”

The bill’s committee was due to consider other issues, including the government’s plan to impose compulsory treatment in the community, this week.

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 Mithran Samuel

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