Members of the Joint Committee at the WAMH stand
On 15th December, for the very first time in its history, a pre-legislative Parliamentary Committee of leading MPs and Lords sat at the National Assembly. The Committee came to take evidence on the draft Mental Health Bill and their witnesses included Minister for Health and Social Services, Jane Hutt and David Melding AM, Chairman of the Health and Social Services Committee.
Speaking at the session, Jane Hutt emphasised a need in Wales to “ensure that as much as possible is left to our discretion in terms of secondary legislation”.
“We are concerned that Welsh needs are reflected in the Bill,” Hutt stated, referring to the National Framework and the Adult Mental Health Services Strategy. “We have to take into account workforce and readiness of service, but also basic principles in terms of empowering service users.”
David Melding AM, Chairman of the Health and Social Services Committee, stressed that the definition of mental disorder in the draft was “too wide” and that “this was the view of almost everyone in the Committee”. Melding also commented how it seemed “strange that principles are not explicit and are left to Codes of Practice”, and foresaw problems the major change the Bill could bring at a time when the Assembly is implementing the National Service Framework.
The Wales Alliance for Mental Health (WAMH), a coalition of mental health organisations in Wales, had a stand at the Assembly on the day to which members of the Committee were invited. Lindsay Foyster, Director of Mind Cymru, welcomed the Committee members and stressed the value of the Cardiff session in inviting the Wales perspective on the Bill.
Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Hafal, said to the gathered members of the Committee: “The draft works against the spirit of partnership which is essential to the effective delivery of services.
“Rights to early treatment would create a more humane and cost-effective service, steering patients quickly towards recovery and social integration. This would reduce the need for those compulsion measures which the draft is so focused upon.”
The Committee will continue to take evidence on the Bill in sessions which are expected to take place up until early February 2005. The Committee has until 31st March 2005 to report to Parliament.
For more information on the draft Mental Health Bill go to: www.mentalhealthwales.net/website/bill
A transcript of the Cardiff session is available at: www.publications.parliament.uk