Government determined to ignore Mental Health Bill changes

The government yesterday restated its intention to reverse many of the changes made by peers as the Mental Health Bill was debated for the first time in the House of Commons.

But several backbench Labour MPs joined opponents of the bill in backing some of the changes made in the House of Lords, suggesting the government still faces a rough ride.

Vauxhall Labour MP Kate Hoey suggested that changes made by peers to prevent children being treated in adult wards would improve their safety. And West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson said MPs on both sides of the house had been convinced by charity YoungMinds that children as young as 10 should never be treated on adult wards.

Other Labour backbenchers backed the idea of a right to advocacy for detained patients and a reduction of the automatic referral period to a mental health tribunal from six months to 28 days, neither of which features in the bill as it stands.

Peers made several changes to the bill earlier this year introducing greater safeguards in the use of compulsory community treatment, requiring compulsory treatment to benefit the recipient and banning the use of adult wards for children.

But health secretary Patricia Hewitt told MPs she intended to amend the bill to strike a balance between modernising practice and improving safeguards as it went through committee stage, which is expected to begin next week.

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