The government’s main Mental Health Bill opponents have suggested a consensus could be emerging over the controversial legislation, ahead of a crucial House of Commons debate next Monday.
The government promised to amend the bill to ban the use of adult wards for under-18s, save in exceptional circumstances, introduce a statutory advocacy service for patients held under detention, and place stricter limits on the conditions that could be placed on people as part of compulsory community treatment.
Community Care also understands that the government will, as it has hinted before, back a Labour backbench amendment which the alliance considers a reasonable compromise over whether people must be considered treatable before they can be detained.
The amendment says the purpose of any medical treatment must be to alleviate the symptoms or prevent the worsening of a patient’s condition. As the bill stands, treatment would only need to be “appropriate”.
But Bell stressed that there were still some outstanding issues to be resolved during the Commons report stage, which takes place on Monday and Tuesday, and for when the bill returns to the Lords.
The alliance wants to see compulsory community treatment restricted to “revolving door” patients who have been in and out of hospital several times while the government insists it should be available for those who have been hospitalised just once. The alliance also wants patients to be able to make “advance statements” about what kind of treatment works best for them, and does not want issues such as sexual orientation, substance misuse or cultural, religious or political beliefs to constitute a mental disorder under the bill.
Bell added: “We believe that the government and the Mental Health Alliance can still work together to deliver a new act that is defensible and workable. We will be working closely with MPs and peers in the final stages of the bill’s passage through Parliament to ensure that constructive and workable amendments are fully debated.”
YoungMinds policy and innovation manager Kathryn Pugh said she was “delighted” about the amendment preventing children being placed on adult wards but warned that it would require a “very strong performance management framework” to ensure it worked properly. She also called for advocacy to be extended to voluntary child patients, who may not have anyone to speak on their behalf.
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