UK Government proposes new amendments to the Mental Health Bill

The UK Government today proposed new amendments to the Mental Health Bill before it reaches Report Stage next week (18th-19th June) – the final debate in the House of Commons before the Bill goes to ‘ping-pong’ between the two Houses.

The Government has announced that the amendments to the Bill, if passed, would mean that:

• within two years, no child under 16 years of age is treated on an adult ward and that all patients aged under 18 are placed in suitable settings

• statutory advocacy services would be introduced to support patients detained under the Mental Health Act and to champion their rights

• 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.

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

Announcing the amendments 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.”

However, while welcoming some of the introduced amendments, campaigners feel that more could have been proposed to create a fairer Bill.

Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said: “The glaring omission is a right to early treatment. This would balance the focus on compulsion in the Bill, and if put into practice, would often prevent the need for compulsion to be used at all.”

Andy Bell, Chairman of the Mental Health Alliance, said: “There remain some very serious concerns about the Bill. We are especially concerned that too many people will be liable to be put on community treatment orders.”