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Revised Mental Health Bill

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  • Revised Mental Health Bill

    Revised mental health bill fails to persuade patients or professionals

    Lynn Eaton


    The latest government attempts to win over detractors of the controversial mental health bill, first proposed in 2002 but later withdrawn for redrafting after an outcry over its contents, seem to have failed at the first hurdle.

    When health minister Rosie Winterton launched the revised bill last week professionals and patients' groups protested that the changes still didn't go far enough.

    After the more than 2000 responses to the last draft bill ( BMJ 2002;325:987[Free Full Text]Proposals under the revised mental health bill
    • Forced treatment in the community will be possible only after an initial period of hospital assessment
    • Patients will be able to nominate their own representative rather than being forced to use the traditional "next of kin"
    • Patients will be able to have access to an independent advocate
    • Patients must be given a care plan within five days of being sectioned
    • The NHS will be given a duty to respond to any reasonable request for assessment
    • Patients who have the capacity will be allowed to refuse electroconvulsive treatment
    • The Mental Health Act Commission, which monitors standards in psychiatric hospitals, will be abolished and its work carried out by the Healthcare Commission
    • An additional 900 staff, including 130 more psychiatrists, will be needed to operate the new safeguards
    • Community treatment orders will not be used in prisons

    The Mental Health Alliance, which represents more than 60 interested parties, from professional bodies such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists through to charities such as Mind and patients' representative groups, insisted the new bill would drive thousands away from mental health services.

    Alliance chairman Paul Farmer said: "This will force professionals to bring too many people in for compulsory treatment, damage the trust that is so vital between doctors and patients, and lead to a bureaucratic overload on an already overstretched system."

    Tony Zigmond, vice president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said it was "disingenuous" to talk about offering services to people with a personality disorder.

    "The point here is should it be forced on them?" he asked. "If people are capable of making a decision for themselves [whether or not to accept treatment offered] they should be left alone to make that decision."

    A parliamentary committee has been set up to scrutinise the bill, reporting by March 2005. For further details see

    The bill is accessible at
    You are not aware of the consequences that would result (if you were granted what you desire) because what you seek might be to your detriment. (O soul) be conscious that your Master is more aware about your well-being than you are.

    ~Ibn Al-Jawzee


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