Minister pledges new mental health bill but stops short of setting a date

The government is to continue updating mental health legislation
but is still unable to indicate when a bill will be introduced, it
has been confirmed.

Prisons and probation minister Paul Goggins said that although more
than a year had passed since the draft mental health bill was
unveiled, “nobody should read into it that there’s not going to be
a bill”.

Goggins was speaking at rehabilitation agency Nacro’s annual mental
health and crime conference last week.

Although he was unable to say precisely when a bill would be dealt
with in parliament, he said the government intended to do so “as
and when time allows”. But he would not be drawn on whether the
bill would appear in a different form from the draft version.

Goggins defended the draft bill, saying that, although it was
“quite rightly” controversial, much of the debate had “obscured the
positive proposals”.

He said it was “nonsense” to suggest there was a stand-off between
public safety and the right of the individual to treatment and
that, despite concerns to the contrary, most people who needed
treatment would continue to receive it voluntarily.

Treating people under the proposed community treatment orders would
also be better for individuals, Goggins added. “People should get
the treatment they need in the right place for them to receive it.
That seems to me to be a better system than requiring them to be in
hospital before they receive any compulsory treatment.”

Peter Tyrer, professor of community psychiatry at Imperial College,
London, told the conference that the draft bill had united people
against it. He believed it to be the “only time in living memory”
where groups from psychiatrists to social workers and charities had
been on the same side.

In his view, the proposals set out in the draft bill would have a
negative effect on the relationship between the patient and

“It will be increasingly difficult to establish therapeutic
alliances with patients whose lives are overshadowed by coercion,”
he said.

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