Mental Health :: Better support for patients, victims and young people in Mental Health Bill

The rights of patients and the public will be strengthened by new amendments to the Mental Health Bill published by the UK Government.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said:

“We have had productive discussions with members of the House of Lords, House of Commons and with stakeholders, and have listened to their views and concerns. We have worked closely together to strengthen the Bill, and with these amendments, I feel that we have got the balance right.”

These core amendments to the Bill, if passed, would mean:

– children and young people receive treatment for a mental disorder in an environment that is suitable for their age and geared to meet their needs. This builds on a commitment made in November to ensure that, within two years, no child under 16 years of age is treated on an adult ward. Under the new amendment, all hospital managers would have a duty to ensure that all patients aged under 18 are placed in suitable settings, unless needs dictate otherwise;

– in response to issues raised during Committee stage in the House of Commons, statutory advocacy services would be introduced to support patients detained under the Mental Health Act and to champion their rights;

– more rights for victims of convicted mentally disordered offenders – such as the right to know when offenders are discharged back into the community and the right to make representations about their discharge;

– conditions could only be placed on a person who is on supervised community treatment (SCT) in order to ensure that they receive treatment to prevent the risk of harm to their health or safety, or to protect other people. This amendment is in response to concerns expressed that SCT conditions could be used inappropriately to restrict an individual’s behaviour and lifestyle. It follows discussions with the Mental Health Coalition (the Royal College of Nursing, the British Psychological Society, Unison, the College of Occupational Therapists and Amicus).

These amendments address the issues raised either in the House of Lords or Committee stage in the House of Commons.

Rosie Winterton said:

“We as a society have the responsibility to act if someone with a mental illness is a danger to themselves or others. Patients need to have their interests safeguarded and their rights championed and that is what I believe this Bill delivers. The amended Bill would allow advocates, independent of the clinical team treating the patient, to be appointed to support mental health patients. This support might include helping the patient to understand the treatment they are being given, and understanding and exercising their rights under the Mental Health Act.

“But equally, if a violent incident does occur, the victim of the incident has a right to have their voice heard. It is vitally important that the victims of mentally disorded offenders are treated with respect and dignity, and having listened to the concerns of victims groups, the Bill has been amended. It now allows victims to receive information and make representations about a patient’s discharge.

“I am also grateful to Young Minds and the Children’s Commission for working with us on our age appropriate treatment amendment, and to the Mental Health Coalition for their help in drafting our amendment to make clear that conditions on supervised community treatment should have a medical purpose.”

Barbara Herts, Chief Executive of Young Minds said:

“Young Minds is delighted that the Government has listened to the voice of children and young people and is acting to protect their interests. We look forward to working with the Government on the implementation phase.”

Professor Peter Kinderman, speaking on behalf of the Mental Health Coalition said:

“I am delighted that the Department of Health is listening and responding positively to the concerns of the Coalition. Most mental health professionals are committed to developing genuine multidisciplinary care. We feel that the Bill now much better reflects the way that ethical, high quality, person centred care should be delivered.”

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