Health minister Rosie Winterton (pictured) today announced a set of amendments designed to broker a compromise on the Mental Health Bill between the government and its opponents within and outside parliament.
Winterton produced amendments which would limit the use of compulsory treatment in the community to cases where treatment would prevent “the risk of harm to their health or safety, or to protect other people”; introduce statutory advocacy services for people who are detained for treatment, and ensure patients under 18 are placed in suitable settings, “unless needs dictate otherwise”.
All three represent compromises on contentious parts of the bill.
Last month, the government overturned a House of Lords amendment, backed by the campaigning coalition on the bill, the Mental Health Alliance, which would have restricted compulsory community treatment to so-called “revolving door” patients, who would otherwise be in and out of hospital.
Today’s amendment appears to go nowhere near as far in limiting community treatment but, in an interesting twist, the Department of Health said it was formulated following talks with the Mental Health Coalition, a group of five professional bodies and trade unions, including Unison, which split from the alliance last month.
The government also had overturned a Lords amendment which would have prevented under-18s from being placed in adult psychiatric wards. Though today’s amendment does not go that far, the move was backed by child mental health charity YoungMinds, which said the government had listened to young people and was “acting to protect their interests”.
The government was roundly criticised for not including a right to advocacy in the bill, having included it in a draft mental health bill that preceded it.
Contact the author