Mental Health Bill passed by the Commons

The UK Government’s Mental Health Bill has cleared the final stages of its journey through Parliament and will now become law.

MPs have cut short the ‘ping-pong’ of the Bill between the Commons and the Lords by backing three compromise amendments introduced by Peers earlier this week.

Now the Bill will go forward and attain Royal Assent, which is a formality, and then be written into legislation.

The Lords put forward three amendments:

• that renewals of detention must be agreed by the person’s responsible clinician (RC) and a professional who has been professionally involved with the patient,

• that when making a community treatment order, the RC must have regard to the patient’s history and the risk of deterioration if the patient is not detained in hospital,

• and that a respect for diversity principles be included in the Code of Practice.

When MPs debated the Bill for the final time this week, they voted in agreement with all three amendments, thus bringing to an end years of debate over new mental health legislation for England and Wales.

A spokesman for the campaign group Mental Health Alliance said: “We now have a Bill that for the first time gives people a right to an advocate when they are detained and that protects children from being put on adult wards inappropriately.

“We also have new safeguards over the use of electro-convulsive therapy, for people detained under the Mental Capacity Act, and for the renewal of detention. These are hard-won improvements that are a credit to the persistence of activists from across the country.

“But our members will be disappointed today that the Government has rejected changes to many other aspects of the Bill.

“It has failed to heed the evidence about the risks of significant over-use of community treatment orders and the excessive powers the Bill gives to clinicians. And it treats people with mental health problems as second class citizens by allowing treatment to be imposed on those who are able to make rational decisions for themselves.

“We are now at a crossroads. We call on the Government to start listening to the people who are affected by the Act when it writes the new regulations and to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to mental health services to implement the changes fairly.”

Care services minister gets mental health brief

Ivan Lewis has taken responsibility for both mental health and social care at the Department of Health as part of Gordon Brown’s ministerial reshuffle.

Mr Lewis told the Commons during this week’s debate on the Mental Health Bill that he was “pleased to assume lead responsibility for mental health” in the DH, taking over from Rosie Winterton, who has moved to the Department for Transport.

He told MPs: “Whenever possible, I shall try to build a consensus that tackles the stigma that people with mental health problems and their families experience all too frequently.”