Scrutiny committee calls for draft mental health bill to be “radically overhauled”

Too many people will be forced into compulsory treatment under
measures in the draft Mental Health Bill, MPs and Lords have
warned, writes Sally Gillen.

In its report, published today, the committee set up to
scrutinise the bill says it could erode civil liberties and
recommends it be radically overhauled.

The government has placed too great an emphasis on protecting
the public from a very small number of dangerous mentally ill
people, it adds.

Chair of the committee Lord Carlile said the proposed
legislation should be altered so its focus is on improving mental
health services and reducing the stigma of mental disorder.

The report is based on evidence heard by the committee over six
months from witnesses including health minister Rosie

It recommends:

* Tightening the criteria for compulsory treatment so it applies
to people who pose a “significant risk of harm to
others” rather than for the “protection of other

* That patients should never be treated under compulsion unless
their decision-making is impaired

* That compulsory treatment must be of therapeutic benefit
rather than “appropriate” 

* Separate legislation should be introduced to deal with the
small percentage of people who have personality disorders and would
not benefit from treatment.

Chris Heginbotham, chief executive of The Mental Health Act
Commission, which is responsible for monitoring the quality of
services provided in psychiatric hospitals, said: “We hope
that it will have a profound influence on the redrafting of
government proposals.”

The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, a member of the Mental
Health Alliance, said: “The committee’s call for
aftercare to be available free of charge is very welcome. But we
remain concerned that without adequate training and regulation the
loss of the social work role in the current act could compromise
aspects of people’s care.”


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