Sixty Second Interview with Tim Loughton

Sixty Second Interview with Tim LoughtonLoughton, Tim HP

Last week it emerged that the forthcoming mental health bill may not be introduced in this parliamentary session. The revelation came in response to a parliamentary question asked by Tim Loughton, shadow health and children’s minister, Amy Taylor talks to him about the consequences.

It is thought that the mental health bill may not be introduced in this parliamentary session. What are your views on this?

That will be a great shame, we don’t want this bill [the version the government has proposed] but we want a bill as soon as possible. It was June 2002, four years since the first [version of] the bill was published.

It is also believed that the bill may be dropped in favour of reform of 1983 Mental Health Act. Is reform of this act preferable to a new bill or not?

A number of witnesses who gave evidence to the pre-legislative scrutiny committee have said that’s a good idea. We would like to see a new bill but updating the 83 Act is better than nothing.

Campaigners have said that the government’s Shift campaign to tackle the stigma faced by people with mental health problems will be undermined by the draft mental health bill’s focus on compulsory treatment. What do you think about this view point?

I think the shift campaign is well intentioned tokenism. The real problem in mental health is stigma. Mental health services are always at the back of the queue for handing out the money and at the front of the queue for making cuts that’s always going to compound the stigma and [the message] that mental health is a second class disease which it isn’t and that’s compounded by a bill that’s primarily about locking people up.

The Mental Health Act Commission has argued that the government should tackle the poor standard of many inpatient wards, which it says create fear among patients and potential problems with compliance, rather than extend statutory powers of coercion. Do you think more of a focus is needed on inpatient wards?

Mental health wards are the areas of hospitals with the least investment. The instance of mixed sex wards are worse than in non-mental health wards and the level of service leaves a lot to be desired. A serious prioritising of the state of the fabric of mental health wards would be a good start before it [the government] starts to subject more people to compulsion.

Campaigners have criticised the adult health and social care white paper, published earlier this month, for being light on mental health services. Do you share this view?

It’s not just the adult social care white paper its symptomatic of the white and green papers that the government has produced over the last few years. Mental health hardly gets a look in in the public health agenda.

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