Nine years of debate and controversy over the Mental Health Bill have come to an end after the House of Commons yesterday gave its final approval to the legislation.
MPs backed three compromise amendments introduced earlier this week by the House of Lords, ending the prospect of the legislation “ping-ponging” between the two houses.
Peers agreed to introduce a respect for diversity principle within the bill’s code of practice, to address concerns over its impact on black and minority ethnic communities.
Peers also backed a clause requiring renewals of detention to be agreed by a responsible clinician, such as a nurse, and a second professional, following concerns about original government plans for a single responsible clinician to carry out renewals.
An amendment requiring clinicians to have regard to a patient’s history and risk of deterioration before imposing compulsory community treatment was also backed by the House of Lords. All three issues had previously been subject to strong debate between the government and opposition politicians and campaigners.
Andy Bell, chair of the 77-member Mental Health Alliance, set up to campaign for a better bill, said the government had made important concessions over the course of the debates, including a right to advocacy for detained patients and safeguards over the use of electro-convulsive therapy.
But he expressed disappointment that the government had missed the opportunity to introduce “more humane and progressive legislation”, by failing to heed warnings about the potential over-use of compulsory community treatment and allowing people who possessed mental capacity to be sectioned against their will.
He added: “We are now at a crossroads. We call on the government to start listening to the people who are affected by the act when it writes the new regulations and to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to mental health services to implement the changes fairly.”