Bamford Review puts service user rights first in N Ireland

Proposals to give more rights to mental health service users in Northern Ireland could leave England and Wales lagging behind the rest of the UK.

The final report of the five-year Bamford Review into reforming mental health and learning disability policy outlined proposals for unified, rights-based mental health and capacity legislation.

Campaigners have applauded the move to put people with mental health issues on the same footing as those with physical illnesses.

Review chair Professor Roy McClelland (pictured) said: “Our proposals have a human rights-based ring.”

The devolved Northern Ireland executive will have the final say on the proposals, although legislation could be up to three years away.

Like Scottish legislation passed in 2003, and unlike this year’s English and Welsh Mental Health Act, the Bamford proposals would rule out compulsory treatment for mental health patients whose decision-making was not impaired, even if they were likely to harm themselves or others.

Unlike Scotland and England and Wales, Bamford proposes unifying legislation on mental health and capacity to provide a single framework for all people who have decisions taken on their behalf.

Tim Spencer-Lane, policy lead for the Mental Health Alliance, said the Bamford proposals “were what mental health legislation should look like”.

He added: “Any individual with mental capacity who has a physical illness has the legal right to refuse treatment even if this refusal would have serious consequences. In this way the [Bamford] proposals recognise and help to address the stigma of mental illness.”

England and Wales: Mental Health Act 2007

● Separate to mental capacity legislation.
● People who have capacity can be compulsorily treated.

Scotland: Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Scotland Act 2003

● Separate to capacity legislation.
● No compulsory treatment for people without “significantly impaired” decision-making.

Northern Ireland: Bamford proposals

● Unified mental health and capacity legislation.
● No compulsory treatment for people whose decision-making capacity is not impaired.

Further information
Bamford review
Essential information on mental health

Contact the author
Mithran Samuel



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