Date Published: 16 July 2005
UK Draft Mental Health Bill - Reactions from Mental Health Professionals and Pressure Groups
There are serious concerns about proposed new UK legislation concerning the management of people diagnosed as suffering from "Mental Health" issues. On 13th July 2005 the UK Government published its response to the Joint Scrutiny Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill, whose report was published on 23 March.
The background to this bill includes concerns about the 50-75 unlawful killings per year carried out by people with a mental health history and who have been in and out of hospitals*. (However such statistics should ideally be considered in terms of the total number of unlawful killings per year, and also the relative probabilities of a mental health sufferer vs. another person being arrested and convicted.) Some of these killings have received considerable publicity in the UK, and therefore resulted in campaigns on this subject.
What is included in the proposed new Mental Health Bill ?
The Mental Health Bill will include measures to compel people to have treatment in the community, to compel some people to take medication (even if against their will), and to detain some people with personality disorders before any crime has been committed.
The UK Department of Health said about this Bill:
" We must state very firmly that we disagree with the committee's criticism that the Bill places too much emphasis on public safety and not enough on patient rights."
On 13 July 2005, Rosie Winterton (Health Minister) said that:
" We are confident that the Bill's provisions will mean that compulsory treatment will be used only when it is essential."
Reactions to the Mental Health Bill:
The Royal College of Psychiatrists responded to government proposals with a Press Release on it's website. It opened as follows:
" The Royal College of Psychiatrists is disappointed at the Government's failure to adopt many of the most important recommendations made in the Joint Committee report on the draft mental health bill. ... The Royal College of Psychiatrists supported the Joint Committee's proposals which were made after very thorough and considered deliberation of 450 written submissions and oral evidence from 124 witnesses."
Further, Dr Tony Zigmond (Vice President of The Royal College of Psychiatrists) said that:
" It is sad that Government still fails to understand that it is unethical to force treatment on people who are well enough to make their treatment decisions."
Responses and personal quotations from representatives of a wider range
of organisations are included on the Mental Health Alliance's** Press
Release on their website.
* Statistics from the Telegraph news page (see link below);
no information about the total number of unlawful killings per year
** The Mental Health Alliance is a coalition of 73 organisations working together to secure a better Mental Health Act.
Source: Widely reported in UK media. For further information see: The Telegraph News Pages (news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/07/14/nment14.xml, the Mental Health Alliance www.mentalhealthalliance.org.uk and the Royal College of Psychiatrists www.rcpsych.ac.uk.