Mind responds to Government proposals to safeguard rights of people who lack capacity
Posted Thursday 29 June 2006
Today Mind has reacted to proposals published by the Department of Health aimed at closing the 'Bournewood gap' (1).
Mind Chief Executive and Chair of the Mental Health Alliance (2) Paul Farmer said:
"We are pleased that the Government is finally to provide safeguards for this vulnerable group of people. But as currently drafted the plans will fail to offer them effective and robust protection.
People receiving compulsory mental health treatment in nursing or residential care should get equivalent safeguards to those being treated in hospital or the community. Mental Health Review Tribunals, not the Court of Protection, should make decisions about their mental health care. Detention should be limited to six months at a time, not 12. And the Government should commit itself to providing free aftercare to those treated as 'Bournewood' patients.
People detained for mental health treatment, under whatever legislation, should expect equality of treatment. Today's announcement does not represent the full equality we hope to see when the Mental Health Amendment Bill enters Parliament."
- The 'Bournewood gap' - this concerns the rights of mental health inpatients who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves and therefore cannot consent to their treatment. Many such patients are given hospital treatment informally - that is, without being sectioned under the Mental Health Act - because they accept hospitalisation and treatment "compliantly". This situation has come to be known as the 'Bournewood gap' because of the legal case involving Bournewood Hospital in Surrey where the hospital's authority to keep a person in hospital and give treatment, when they have neither actively consented nor refused, was challenged. When the case was still in the UK courts, lawyers representing the government promised to reform the law. It was recognised that such patients' "compliance" allows hospitals to side-step the questions of sectioning (which would provide some safeguards for the person) and of consent to treatment.
- You can see the full Mental Health Alliance response at www.mentalhealthalliance.org.uk
- Full details of the Government's proposals can be found at www.dh.gov.uk