Mental health reform passed ‘without adequate scrutiny’

The biggest shake-up of mental health legislation in Scotland
for 40 years was passed without enough scrutiny, a leading member
of the parliament has claimed, writes Sally

Margaret Smith, Liberal Democrat chairperson of the health and
community care committee that scrutinised the bill, said it was “a
prime candidate for early review”.

The bill, which was supposed to be drafted by February 2002, did
not appear before parliament until September. Consequently, it had
just six months to pass through its three readings.

At the second stage, it had 1,400 amendments and at the final
stage, last week, more than 750 remained. Smith said that the lack
of time meant that the executive had been unable to “find out
whether amendments would make a difference and whether we should
support the provisions”.

She added: “There were times when we were considering sections
of the bill and had to make very close judgment calls. We took
decisions this morning and yesterday when in our hearts we did not
know whether we had done the right thing.”

Shona Barcus, chief executive of the Scottish Association for
Mental Health, said: “Overall, we think that the bill is good, but
that it could have been better.” But she added that it would be
“more welcomed by the professionals than the service users”.

The organisation had campaigned for a last minute amendment to
be added that would see restrictions placed on the use of
compulsory treatment orders, but it had not been included.

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