refuse to add 'treatability' condition to draft mental health bill
by Adam James
have today refused to add a "treatability" condition to
a draft mental health bill, so increasing fears that more people
will be compulsory treated under new planned mental health law.
ministers' decision has angered mental health professionals who
claim that plans laid out in the draft bill will mean they will
be required to compulsory detain and treat people - particularly
those diagnosed with a personality disorder - who would gain no
pre-legislative parliamentary scrutiny committee concluded earlier
this year that new planned law - to replace the 1983 Mental Health
Act - would erode civil liberties by imposing compulsory treatment
on people who had done no wrong and would not benefit.
committee, composed of MPs and peers, recommended inserting a "treatability"
requirement as in the 1983 act, and similar to the "therapeutic
benefit" requirement in Scottish law.
in a 57-page department of health response to the committee's recommendations,
the government has said that compulsory treatment may need to be
administered "even though the nature of the patient's condition
means that the treatment is unlikely either to improve it or to
prevent it worsening"
report reads: "We do not believe that it would be appropriate
to adopt the 'therapeutic benefit' test as used in the Scottish
report also rejects a key committee recommendation to deal with
people diagnosed with personality disorders under separate law.
report states: "It is not, and has never been, the government's
intention that the bill should be used to detain people solely for
the purpose of taking them out of circulation without offering them
follows that we do not consider it necessary to introduce separate
legislation for people with a mental disorder who pose a danger
to the public but who cannot be treated. Increasingly, appropriate
treatment is available."
Mental Health Alliance, which represents around 70 mental health
professional, charity, carer, law and service user organisations,
said today that mental health workers would be "disappointed
and angry" that the government intends to "broaden"
compulsory treatment powers.
alliance's chair Paul Farmer said: "By rejecting a test of
'therapeutic benefit' for people to be compelled, the government
risks clogging up services with people who cannot be treated and
should not be there."
Royal College of Psychiatrists said it was "saddened"
by the government's failure to adopt key recommendations of the
have, however, accepted more than half of the committee's 107 recommendations.
include a pledge to add "guiding principles" to the bill,
and to add exclusions to the definition of what is a "mental
will also not be required to compulsorily treat people whose sole
mental disorder is dependency on drugs or alcohol. Patients will
also be able to use advance statements on how they be treated in
times of distress. Extra powers for advocates have also been granted.
report also says it will "clearly define" which patients
might be treated under compulsion in the community, known as community
the government has firmly rejected the committee's view that the
bill places too much emphasis on public safety and not enough on
report accuses the committee of failing to recognise the significance
of the need for public protection.
reads: "The great majority of evidence [used by the committee]
came from stakeholders who represent health and social care professionals
and service users, and relatively little from those with responsibility
for protecting public or from the general public themselves."
report did, however, recognise that media coverage of homicides
leads to a distorted view of the risk that is posed by people with
mental health problems.
the report adds that of the 500 or so homicides each year, about
15% are committed by people diagnosed with a mental illness.
has a reasonable expectation that the law will provide protection,
as far as possible, from patients with a serious mental disorder
who present a risk of harm to others," reads the report.
Tony Zigmond, honorary vice president at the Royal College of Psychiatrists,
said: "The committee received 450 written submissions and took
oral evidence from 124 witnesses. Their
report made proposals for a Mental Health Act which would enhance
patient care and community, safety and command wide support from
patients, their carers and professionals.
Royal College of Psychiatrists is saddened by the government's failure
to adopt many of the central recommendations of the committee."
Government response to the
report of the joint committee on the draft mental health bill 2004
Joint Parliamentary Committee's report on the draft mental health
government's draft mental health bill (pdf)
11, 2005: Mental health no longer the NHS Cinderella service, says
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29, 2005: Government again under fire over plans to change mental
health law - parliamentary committee warns that planned legislation
would erode civil liberties
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