Worries over deaths in police custody

    The introduction of the Scottish Mental Health (Care and
    Treatment) Act 2003 has been put back six months because of fears
    that services would not be ready in time.

    The Scottish executive said the decision had been made after
    listening to stakeholders’ concerns.

    It is believed that there were particular difficulties with
    recruiting mental health tribunal panel members and client
    advocates.

    The decision to delay the act from April to October 2005, while
    generally supported by mental health groups, has raised concerns
    that mental health officers could be left grappling with two
    systems.

    Christina Naismith, chair of the mental health group at the
    Association of Directors of Social Work, said mental health
    officers had already started to be trained for the act’s provisions
    and would now have to be retrained in existing regulations
    too.

    “Training has started across the country and authorities will have
    to adapt to this. People can’t keep two acts in their heads,” she
    added.

    Naismith said that some areas had not recruited enough tribunal
    panellists. As a result too much pressure would have been placed on
    those tribunals that were up and running.

    She said that while significant progress had been made they did not
    want to be in a position where the new system might fail. “The
    delay will allow people to come at it in a more measured way rather
    than running things at top speed.”

    Each tribunal will be chaired by a legal professional and have a
    doctor and someone from the care sector, which could include a
    service user or carer. At least one tribunal will sit in each local
    authority, with more in major cities. They will make decisions on
    compulsory detention and on support and care packages.

    Donald Lyons, director of the Mental Welfare Commission, said more
    consistency was needed in the way tribunals were going to
    work.
    “I don’t think they are fit for purpose yet and if by taking
    another six months it means they will be running consistently then
    that will have a lot of support.”

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