The National Assembly for Wales has been granted the power to create an Assembly Measure (or ‘Welsh Law’) dealing with assessment, treatment and advocacy in mental health.
The new law-making power, which received Royal Approval yesterday, is a result of Cardiff North AM Jonathan Morgan’s mental health Legislative Competence Order (LCO) which was initially proposed in October 2007 following calls from service users for an improved mental health service in Wales.
Commenting on today’s historic development Mr Morgan, the first Assembly backbencher to have an LCO approved, said: “There’s a lot of goodwill riding on this LCO and I think we have to keep the momentum up by ensuring that we reform services in a way that shows that Wales can lead the rest of the UK in providing better care for people with a mental illness.
“If you consider one in four of the population in Wales will at some point in their lives encounter a mental illness then that is something that should spur politicians on to providing a better service for those people that become mentally unwell.”
Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of service-user led Welsh mental health charity Hafal, described approval of the LCO as “brilliant news for the people of Wales”. He said: “Following the passing of a disappointing Mental Health Act in 2007, service users in Wales were calling for a better deal. Jonathan Morgan picked up on these concerns and introduced a compelling Member-proposed LCO which gained the support of all parties.
“The Mental Health Act 2007 focused on compulsion – those instances when service users’ rights are taken away – without giving patients any rights to treatment in return. For Hafal’s clients it has always been about creating a balance, with the right to early treatment and a comprehensive care plan in place alongside the rare use – with safeguards – of compulsion, usually when people are a danger to themselves.
“Our Members feel that the new legislation provides an opportunity to strike a fairer deal, to give service users key rights and to strengthen that partnership between patients and professionals which is so vital to the success of mental health services.”
Speaking on Radio Wales this morning Hafal service user, carer and Trustee Chris Eastwood said his life would have been “distinctly different” if laws on assessment, treatment and advocacy had been in force when he had his first psychotic episode in 1986.
Chris, who has bipolar disorder, said: “I’ve had five psychotic episodes; my first was in 1986 when I was working at a hotel in south Wales. I lost my job because I was acting very bizarrely but, looking back, if someone had explained to me how bipolar manifested itself, if I was treated earlier and if that treatment was followed up I reckon I could have gone back to that job and my life would have been distinctly different. I hope this LCO is implemented as it is intended to be.”
The LCO will now be debated by the Assembly Government. It is hoped that legislation will come into force within the next 12 months.
To view a Senedd TV interview of Jonathan Morgan speaking about Royal Approval of the LCO please visit: http://www.senedd.tv/archiveplayer.jsf?v=en_900002_11_02_2010&t=0