Lords challenge bed-blocking bill in bid to strengthen patients’ rights

Peers in the House of Lords this week voted in favour of two
amendments to the Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Bill that, if
upheld, would reduce the possibility of patients being discharged
inappropriately or prematurely.

They voted by 124 to 113 in favour of an amendment to exclude
mental health patients from the controversial fining system. Later,
peers passed a second amendment by 142 to 131 stating that a
patient or their carer must be consulted, and their informed
consent obtained, before they can be passed into the care of social

Conservative peer Earl Howe said that hospital discharge for people
with mental illness required “considerable care” and that making a
judgement on whether or not a person was likely to harm themselves
or others “cannot be made in a hurry”.

“To require councils to provide care in short order to psychiatric
patients is not just unfair on local authorities, it is also unfair
on patients who find themselves pitched out of hospital and who
cannot then access the services and support they need,” he

He warned that there might also be a temptation to use medication
to manage symptoms to enable a quicker discharge.

The Mental After Care Association welcomed the amendment as a “vote
for patients rather than administrators and accountants” and
stressed that without the amendment the bill had been flawed.

“The best way of improving discharge rates for psychiatric
in-patients is through commissioning and funding better community
mental health services. It is not through the imposition of a
punitive fining regime,” said Maca policy spokesperson Simon

During the debate on the second amendment, Baroness Barker, Liberal
Democrat spokesperson for social services, said that while most
people would welcome the help of social services, others would want
to make their own arrangements and should have the right to

“Given that under the framework being set up by the bill, hospitals
are likely to prefer all patients to come under the responsibility
of social services – bearing in mind the penalty system that is to
come into force – it is probable that, without a specific
recommendation that the views of an individual must be taken into
account, all patients will be referred regardless of their wishes,”
she said.

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