Department says it cannot provide tribunals to meet draft bill plans

The government has admitted it will be unable to provide mental health tribunals for people detained for more than 28 days under proposed legislation, Community Care has learned.

At an urgent meeting with user groups last week, Department of Health officials said they wanted to extend the 28-day deadline.

Community Care also understands that the government is considering signing off a version of the Mental Health Bill, which is expected to be introduced next month, that does not include the tribunal system.

The draft Mental Health Bill provides for a mental health tribunal to provide legal authority for cases where someone is detained for more than 28 days, replacing the existing mental health review tribunal.

The government estimates that the changes would double the number of tribunal hearings from 20,000 to 40,000 a year.

The DH is also considering proposals to have tribunals without medical members for uncontested cases or those involving so-called revolving door patients, where little change would be made to care plans.

But this would be rejected by the Mental Health Alliance, which comprises groups that oppose the proposed legislation.

The bill is also expected to replace care plans with treatment plans for people under detention. These would focus solely on diagnosis and medical treatment rather than social care issues and housing needs.

Last week Community Care revealed that a Tribunal Project Group, which includes representatives from the Law Society and the Mental Health Alliance, sent a four-page statement on the draft bill’s proposals warning that they were “unworkable”.

Sources close to the development of the bill believe that problems with the proposed model of tribunal may stall its progress through parliament.

They also believe that the bill could become the source of inter-departmental wrangling between the DH and the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Next March, the DCA will take charge of the tribunal system and it is believed it wants the difficulties resolved before it takes over responsibility from the DH.


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