Difficulties in staffing of tribunals delays Scottish Mental Health Act


    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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