Mental health bill’s omission from Queen’s Speech prompts warnings from campaigners

Campaigners have applauded the government’s decision to
rethink its approach to new mental health legislation, but warned
that reform must not be forgotten, writes David

The controversial draft mental health bill was not included in
the Queen’s Speech, and so will not be a government priority
during the next 12 months.

Health minister Jacqui Smith told the Mind annual conference
this week that the government was still committed to the bill.

“We’re not going to scrap this bill,” she said. “We have
consulted and we will continue to consult.”
In the face of fierce criticism and heckling at the conference in
Cardiff, she admitted that the bill needed further consideration,
but defended the proposed measures for compulsory treatment in the

“We do believe there are people who currently would benefit
themselves and society if it was possible for them to be treated
under compulsion,” she said.

Mind reacted by warning the government not to forget the need
for ‘modern’ mental health legislation. The charity
will fight proposed compulsory treatment and indefinite detentions
of people with severe personalty disorders.

“Mind has welcomed the opportunity for an extended period of
consultation to allow the government to re-draft the bill into
legislation that must meet the needs of people with mental health
problems,” a spokesperson said.

The Mental Health Alliance welcomed the bill’s omission
from the Queen’s Speech, saying it needed more work.

Alliance chairperson Paul Farmer said: “The draft bill focuses
too much on issues of risk and compulsory treatment, rather than
individual rights to an assessment of needs and effective support
and care.”

But Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity
Sane, said she regretted the delay in the bill.

“We hope it does not mean that our 16 years of campaigning will
be allowed to run into the sand,” she said.

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