drops key proposals of draft mental health bill
government today announced it had dropped many key proposals outlined
in its draft mental health bill. However it still plans to press
ahead with giving psychiatrists extra powers to detain people diagnosed
with personality disorder.
Mental health minister Rosie Winterton said a new shorter "streamlined”
bill will be a list of amendments to the present Mental Health Act
all mental health organisations have fiercely criticised the "draconian”
measures contained in the 2004 draft mental health bill. Last year
a parliamentary scrutiny committee concluded that the draft bill
plans would erode civil liberties by imposing compulsory treatment
on people who had done no wrong and would not benefit.
Specifically, critics said compulsion would be extended by the draft
bill's inclusion of a wide definition of mental disorder and the
ditching of the “treatability” test contained in the
1983 act. This specifies that, before detention, patients must be
However, although Ms Winterton told parliament today that the new
bill will include a “simplified definition of mental disorder”,
the "treatability" test will be removed. In its place
will be a “test that appropriate treatment is available”.
Ms Winterton said: "Unlike the treatability test, the availability
of appropriate treatment will be a requirement [for detention] for
all groups of patients, regardless of their particular diagnosis.
is important to ensure that patients are not brought under compulsory
powers unless appropriate treatment is available."
These new plans could mean that people diagnosed with personality
disorder can be detained if treatment is available.
Although some psychiatrists argue such patients are untreatable,
a number of treatment services for these patients do operate in
Plans to extend compulsory powers of detention over people with
drug and alcohol problems but no mental disorder have also been
dropped by the government.
However, the extent to which plans to introduce “community
treatment orders” (whereby people are treated under compulsion
in their own homes) have been changed remain unclear. Ms Winterton
only said today that there will be "supervised treatment in
the community” for patients who had previously been detained
in psychiatric hospital.
Ms Winterton also said the new bill would take into account obligations
due under the European Convention on Human Rights, and that it would
take account the new Mental Capacity Act 2005 which provides legal
safeguards people judged to lack capacity.
Plans for some professional groups, such as clinical psychologists,
to have increased powers in treating detained patients have been
Paul Farmer of the Mental Health Alliance, composed of 77 mental
health and law groups, welcomed the government’s ditching
of controversial draft bill proposals.
However, he added that abolishing the treatability test “risks
increasing compulsory powers unnecessarily for people who will have
no therapeutic benefit from being deprived of their liberty.”
Dr Tony Zigmond, honorary vice-president of the Royal College of
Psychiatrists, welcomed the government’s “change of
He said: “The 2004 draft bill alienated many of us in the
mental health sector from the process of reform. An ethical, non-stigmatising
and workable mental health bill is achievable and must continue
to be our aim. I hope we can now all work together to improve legislation
Cliff Prior, chief executive of the charity Rethink, gave a "cautious
welcome” to the new proposals.
However, he added: “We are extremely concerned that the new
proposals to amend the 1983 act will merely serve to change the
process for this bill and not fundamentally change the content…It
seems that they have kept all of the bad elements of the original
proposals and left out all the good.”
Sophie Corlett, policy director for the charity Mind said: "These
proposals leave a lot still to be decided."
government said the new bill will be introduced “when parliamentary
March 1, 2006:
Setback for mental health bill - backbench opposition could
force government defeat
13, 2005: Ministers refuse to add "treatability" condition
to draft mental health bill - fears that more people will be
compulsory treated is fuelled by government response to parliamentary
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