Mental Health Alliance attacks revised government bill

Government attempts to tighten the criteria for compulsory
mental health treatment have failed to win support from the Mental
Health Alliance, writes Lauren

The group of 60 service users and carers groups, charities and
professional bodies said the way of defining who qualified for
treatment against their will under the revised draft Mental Health
Bill was still “far too broad”.

The revised draft, published today by the Department of Health in
conjunction with the Home Office, redefines mental disorder,
placing greater emphasis on the psychological condition rather than
the underlying cause.

It also raises the threshold for compulsory treatment from that
proposed in the 2002 draft of “for the health and safety of
the patient” to “for the protection of the patient from
suicide, or serious self-harm, or serious neglect by him or his
health or safety”.

In addition, clinicians must be satisfied that appropriate
treatment is available for the patient.

But Alliance chair Paul Farmer said the Bill’s proposals
would “force professionals to bring too many people in for
compulsory treatment, damage the trust that is so vital between
doctors and patients and lead to a bureaucratic overload on an
already overstretched system”.

Denying the charges, national director for mental health Louis
Appleby insisted no professional would be forced to treat or detain
anyone who they did not believe it was clinically appropriate to
treat or detain.

He said the intention of the “clinically
appropriateness” test, which will replace the old
“treatability” test,  was to remove the dilemma of
clinicians who found themselves unable to treat patients they
thought they could help because they could not say with complete
confidence that their symptoms would improve as a result.

“At the moment, clinicians have to be sufficiently confident
there will be a direct benefit to the patient to use the Act,
otherwise they can’t use it,” Appleby explained.
“In the future, they will just have to be confident that they
are doing the right thing.”

As with the earlier draft, the Bill also proposes the establishment
of independent mental health tribunals for England and Wales to
scrutinise the care of all individuals detained for more than 28
days, the abolition of the approved social worker role, and the
abolition of the Mental Health Act Commission.

For a summary of the revised draft Bill, go to

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