Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Protesters attack mental health bill

UK: LONDON: The government today faced calls to scrap the draft mental health bill as campaigners opposed to its controversial proposals mounted a rally in London.

More than 500 people are attending the rally organised by the Mental Health Alliance - a coalition of 60 charities, mental health patient organisations and professionals, including Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Delegates at the rally, held at a conference centre near the Houses of Parliament, blasted the draft bill as "failed in concept and practice".

The alliance chairman, Paul Farmer, said: "Hundreds of 'real experts' - the people who use mental health services and work in them - have come together to reinforce the message we have given to the government over and over again - this draft mental health bill in its present form is all about increasing compulsion and it simply won't work. It has failed in its basic concepts and will, if it ever becomes law, fail in practice.

Mr Farmer said the report by the joint parliamentary committee on the draft mental health bill, due to be published in March, should be viewed by the government as "the perfect opportunity to start afresh" on modernising mental health law.

The alliance believes that the bill will increase the number of people forcibly treated by widening the conditions for compulsion and extending compulsory treatment into the community. It believes the bill is primarily focused on addressing public misconception about violence and mental illness, and does not do enough to protect patients' rights.

Cliff Prior, chief executive of the mental health charity Rethink, said: "The message from today's rally is clear and unequivocal. The government must think again. Its concentration on extending compulsion is totally out of step with its drive to increase choice and personal control in other areas of health."

Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of the social care charity Turning Point, said: "This is an important reminder to government that the bill is fundamentally flawed. It is too heavily focussed on compulsion and currently there are neither the financial resources nor the workforce to implement it."

Protestors will later hand in a box of alternative suggestions to reforming mental health law to office of the Department of Health.

By David Batty posted 2 February 05


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Review of the Mental Health Act 1990

1. We contend that the wording of the objects unnecessarily contrasts civil and other rights with effectiveness of treatment. It does not have to be a matter of balance, and in fact we suggest that real care is consistent with rights, dignity etc. The use of the word "control" (in this Section and throughout the whole Chapter) repeatedly with neither qualification nor mitigation leads to a strong impression that all people with psychiatric disabilities are always in need of 'policing' and restriction. We disagree totally and consider this to give rise to prejudicial attitudes and actions by the public and professionals related to perceptions and assumptions of dangerousness and lack of capacity.