Government delays put patients at risk
Posted Monday 3 November 2008
Patients who will be subjected to new compulsory powers under the Mental Health Act from today (3 November) face being denied access to critical support and protection, says mental health charity Mind. Under the new laws, patients detained or subject to a Community Treatment Order should be legally entitled to an independent mental health advocate, but the Government has delayed the roll out of the posts for six months and is ill prepared for their proposed introduction next April, leading to fears that patients could be left without support.
Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) which will for the first time extend compulsory treatment beyond hospital and into people's homes, are one of the most controversial aspects of the new Mental Health Act. Health practitioners will now have the power to force people with mental health problems to undergo treatment in the community against their will or face being returned to hospital. However, while practitioners are free to impose CTOs on patients from today, access to advocacy is not yet in place and could face further delays.
Last year, the Department of Health came under criticism when it announced that implementing access to advocacy would be delayed until April 2009, but Mind is deeply concerned that the Government will miss its target and patients will have to wait even longer for protection. With the deadline for introducing a fully-operating advocacy service less than six months away, the Department of Health has yet to publish commissioning guidance that will give commissioners the tools to design the service and build it into their budgets. Mind is concerned that without clear guidelines, services will not be planned and a workforce will not have been trained in time for patients across the country to have access to an advocate by April.
Mind's chief executive Paul Farmer said:
"Mind has long had serious concerns that Community Treatment Orders will not only fail to benefit patients, but risk casting the net too widely and subjecting people to compulsory powers when it is neither necessary nor appropriate. In light of this, it is vital that people have access to an advocacy service that will stand up for their rights and safeguard them against the misuse of potentially oppressive powers.
"Mind welcomed the Government's pledge to provide advocacy for people deprived of their liberty, but we are yet to see a strong and clear commitment from them to ensure advocacy will be budgeted for, advocates will be trained and patients nationwide will be able to access them by April. Without any commissioning guidance, trusts lack the tools to prepare to deliver the service. The Government needs to make their action plan public, so vulnerable people don't go unprotected."
Notes to editors
- Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We work to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.
- For more information or interviews please contact the Mind media team on T: 020 8522 1743 M: 07850 788514 E: email@example.com ISDN line available: 020 8221 0817
- Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.