Mental Health Bill amendments must not be reversed, says Alliance
Posted Thursday 1 March 2007
Lords' well-considered amendments are important start on an improved Mental Health Bill
The Government has seriously misunderstood the importance of recent amendments made to the Bill in the House of Lords, the Mental Health Alliance said today.
Responding to the comments made by Health Minister Rosie Winterton today, Andy Bell, chair of the Mental Health Alliance, said:
"The decisions made by the House of Lords are based on evidence of what works and on the experiences of psychiatrists, doctors, social workers, and people with mental health problems. The Alliance believes these amendments are an important improvement to the Bill and they will certainly not fail to protect patients or the public. The best way to protect everyone is to ensure that mental health services have the resources to help everyone who needs their assistance."
"The amendments made would help to ensure patients aren't afraid to turn to mental health services when they need them. Overturning the amendments will only result in deterring people from seeking help when they need it."
"The decisions made in the House of Lords must not be reversed without careful consideration. The Lords exist to scrutinise legislation and have made decisions armed with a thorough understanding of the issues. Many of the peers who debated these amendments have years of professional experience in mental health. They know the Government's claim that this legislation would improve public safety is a myth. They know this Bill would seriously damage the crucial trust between professionals and patients. The Government should respect the expertise and understanding shown by the Lords and use this as an opportunity to reconsider their widely-opposed plans. We call on Ministers to meet with us and discuss a positive way forward with this important and sensitive Bill."
What the amendments will do:
- Retain the existing safeguard that means people treated against their will in hospital must be given treatment that will improve their health or will prevent their condition worsening. This allows doctors to be doctors, not jailers.
- Close loopholes in the supervised community treatment proposals that would have allowed people to be eligible for community treatment where it would be an unnecessarily restrictive way to help their mental health problem.
- Ensure that people whose ability to make decisions about their health is fully functioning cannot be forced to have treatment they do not believe is in their best interests.
The Mental Health Alliance is a coalition of 78 organisations working together to secure better mental health legislation for England and Wales. Its members include charities, professional bodies, user and carer groups, churches and human rights organisations.