Editorial Comment: Campaigning must go on

After nine years of endless debate, the reform of the Mental Health Act 1983 has finally been agreed. MPs approved the bill last week after peers agreed compromise amendments with ministers. While minister Ivan Lewis called it “historic”, the Mental Health Alliance was more circumspect. Its view is that it’s better than it could have been.

There’s been some compromise on the part of the government but it shouldn’t be overstated.

People will no longer have to be considered treatable before being detained, although the treatment administered must have the purpose of alleviating their condition.

Compulsory community treatment can be imposed on patients who have previously been detained in hospital, though clinicians must consider a patient’s history and risk of deterioration.

But there is no escaping the fact that this bill is still about establishing more control over people with mental health needs, rather than enabling them to access support as and when they need it.

It does little to reassure us that the record on race equality will improve. It only encourages the further stigmatisation of this service-user group.

We need the alliance to keep campaigning. How the law is interpreted in guidance and how that is in turn implemented will be the real influence on front-line practice.

At least we should no longer be distracted from the more important debate on the development of well resourced and co-ordinated services that inspire confidence.

Related articles
Mental Health Bill: special report
Mad World (Examining the policies, decisions and events affecting the lives of people with mental health problems around the world)

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 Mike Broad

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