New Scottish laws encounter problems

Mental health campaigners say there are problems with the implementation of parts of new laws in Scotland.

A Scottish Association for Mental Health report says it has concerns with the running of mental health tribunals, the lack of advocacy for voluntary patients, and the use of compulsory treatment orders and advanced statements. The measures were introduced last October under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.

Evidence collected by SAMH suggests some people have found tribunal proceedings too formal and have not been given adequate notice that they are taking place.

There is also confusion over who should pay the expenses of curators ad litem, who are appointed to represent patients incapable of instructing lawyers.

SAMH has also written to the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland, which runs tribunals, calling for it to publish more information on the use of community-based treatment orders. Just 28 out of the 257 compulsory treatment orders issued in the first three months of the year were community-based.

SAMH is also worried over the poor take-up of advance statements, which are used to record a person’s future care and treatment wishes if they lose mental capacity, but are not legally binding.

The report says: “We won’t be able to assess the weight they are given if people don’t actually make them, and test the act’s provisions.”

In the first three months 10 advance statements were overridden by the tribunal.


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