Changes to mental health tribunal system “unworkable”

    Changes to the tribunal system proposed in the draft Mental
    Health Bill are “unwieldy, unnecessary and unworkable,”
    a judge yesterday warned MPs scrutinising the bill. Jenny Goodall
    (pictured) also gave evidence, writes Sally Gillen.

    Liaison judge for the Mental Health Review Tribunal Phillip
    Sycamore said staff shortages and problems with administration of
    the current system meant it would not be able cope with the

    Problems affecting the system included a database that produced
    inaccurate information so tribunal members were often sent to
    hearings on the wrong day or given reports too late to read them
    before meetings.

    Under the bill, all people who are detained for longer than
    28-days will be entitled to a tribunal hearing in which their care
    and treatment plan will be assessed. Currently tribunals are only
    held where a problem is raised about a client’s care.

    Sycamore said that the current system was robust enough and with
    improvements would work well.

    Measures included in the bill would require the appointment of
    2,375 new tribunal members, which according to Sycamore’s
    written submission, would be “literally impossible to achieve
    within the timescales if at all”.

    The judge, who reports directly to the Lord Chancellor, added:
    “We would be very concerned that something so ambitious would
    be taken on when there are already big problems.”

    Later, co-chair of the mental health committee at the
    Association of Directors of Social Services Jenny Goodall said she
    believed the “Berlin Wall” between health and social
    care had been broken down.

    The ADSS realised that the world was changing and it was not
    essential for the new approved mental heath practitioner role to be
    filled by a social worker.

    But she repeated concerns that the role should be independent,
    even if it was carried out by a health professional.

    “We are not saying that the role should be carried out by
    a social worker. A lot of the strength of approved social workers
    is to do with the quality of the training they receive.”

    She added there was no reason why community nurses would not be
    able to do the job. 


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