Mental Health :: Mental Health Bill 2006 – More protection for public and patients

Protection for patients and the public is at the heart of the Mental Health Bill, which was published by Health Minister Rosie Winterton and Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe. The Bill will introduce supervised treatment in the community to ensure that patients comply with treatment when they are discharged from hospital and enable action to be taken to prevent relapse. This will benefit patients and improve public safety.

The Bill also gives new rights and extra protection to people who are unable to decide about their care and who may be unfairly deprived of their liberty. These new safeguards will affect about 5,000 people who have a serious mental disorder but up until now have not been covered by existing mental health laws. Known as the ‘Bournewood provisions’, they include independent checks of whether they should be detained, rights to appeal and a representative appointed to look after their rights.

It will also introduce a new simplified definition of mental disorder and remove the “treatability” test. The “treatability” test has meant that in the past, some people who needed treatment to prevent them harming themselves or others did not receive it.

Publishing the Bill, Rosie Winterton said:

“We want people to get the right treatment at the right time. We want to improve the safety of both patients and the public. This Bill will help ensure that people with serious mental health problems receive the treatment they need to protect them and others from harm. It will also strengthen patient safeguards and ensure human rights are protected.

“We are already modernising services, and the Bill is a key part of our strategy to reform and improve mental health care. It will update the law to reflect the way mental healthcare is provided in today’s NHS.”

Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe said:

“Timely treatment for mental disorder is vital in preventing harm to patients and to others. I look forward to doctors having powers to treat patients in the community to address the revolving door problem before their patients relapse and become involved in tragedies to themselves or to the public.”

The Bill, which amends the 1983 Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act, was contained in the Queen’s Speech 2006. It was introduced on 16 November.

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