Treatability test must go, Blunkett tells mental health professionals

Home secretary David Blunkett last week insisted that the
government should press ahead with its Mental Health Bill proposal
to remove the concept of treatability.

Speaking at a conference held by mental health charity the Zito
Trust, Blunkett said that the government “cannot give way on the
central issue of treatability”. He said it was unacceptable that
the present treatability test meant that “psychopaths” avoided
detention and stayed in the community if they were not expected to
benefit from treatment.

He said:”Where people pose a threat to others and themselves there
must be treatment. The debate isn’t about mass compulsion. It’s
about the balance between public interest and individual

But Blunkett insisted that health secretary Alan Milburn and his
colleagues were “prepared to listen and respond” to the
consultation responses and reflect on “what might be necessary” to
reach a consensus.

Under the Mental Health Act 1983, people suffering from a mental
disorder have to be expected to benefit from treatment in order to
be detained. But under the proposals suggested in the draft bill,
this would no longer be the case.

The proposal to remove the treatability test has provoked fears
that an individual with a personality disorder could be detained
indefinitely even if they have not committed a crime.

At the same conference, Louis Appleby, national director for mental
health, conceded that the proposal to extend compulsory powers into
the community was “to some extent controversial”.

He stressed that the aim was not to increase compulsory powers in
general but to target “revolving door” patients who were in and out
of hospital and tended to lose contact with services in between.
These patients could only be detained again when they reach a
certain level of illness, he said.

Appleby went on to defend the government’s intention to broaden the
definition of mental disorder, saying that the current definition
excluded people who were dependent on drugs and alcohol who might
be at risk of suicide.

“The Mental Health Act is there to back up good clinical care, and
to ensure that people with a mental disorder that places them or
someone else at risk gets access to the best that mental health
services have to offer, even when their mental disorder makes it
difficult for them to recognise their own treatment needs.”

The Zito Trust conference was held to mark the 10th anniversary of
the death of Jonathan Zito, killed by Christopher Clunis who was
diagnosed as suffering with paranoid schizophrenia.

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