Mental health bill is the ‘worst’

The Liberal Democrats health spokesperson described the
government’s mental health proposals as the worst bill he had ever
seen, writes Daniel Allen.

Dr Evan Harris told the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton
the government’s reform of mental health legislation had
given rise to ‘a poor green paper, an even poorer white paper
and an abominable draft bill’.

Professional and user organisations have been vociferous in
their condemnation of the proposed reforms and in particular their
emphasis on compulsory treatment.

‘It was bitterly disappointing that ministers chose to
merge much-needed updating of mental health laws with repressive
legislation to lock up people with untreatable personality
disorders,’ said Dr Harris.

He warned that the draft bill would ‘damage even
further’ people’s access to mental health services, and
would cause defensiveness among mental health professionals anxious
to avoid government and media blame if things went wrong.

Meanwhile, members of the Scottish parliament were told the
proposed system of mental health tribunals north of the border will
have to be properly funded if they are to avoid the problems which
have dogged the system in England.

The warning came from Bruce Millan, chairperson of the Millan
Committee, whose study of mental health legislation in Scotland led
to the mental health bill in Scotland unveiled earlier this month
by the executive.

Among its provisions are the setting up of tribunals to replace
sheriff courts in sectioning patients.

“One of the arguments against the English system is that it is
not properly resourced,” Millan told the health and community care
committee. “They have tribunals, but there are terrible delays. If
we incorporate these delays into the system in Scotland, it will be
a disaster. Resources in this area are essential.”

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