Hart has “open mind” on whether Proposed Mental Health (Wales) Measure should extend to under 18s

Health and Social Services Minister Edwina Hart AM says she has an “open mind” on whether the Proposed Mental Health (Wales) Measure should cover children as well as adults.

The Minister’s willingness to consider extending the scope of the Measure was expressed during an evidence-gathering session held at the Senedd today.

As it stands the meaning of “relevant patient” within the Measure is defined as an adult. However when Cardiff North AM Jonathan Morgan proposed the Legislation Competence Order (LCO) which led to the Measure it was envisaged that provision would be “age blind” in order to ensure a seamless service that would end deficiencies in the existing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

When asked about her decision to limit the scope of the Measure to adults the Minister told the National Assembly for Wales’ Legislation Committee No. 3.
: “We looked at it from the point of view that we had primary care and care planning services with the under 18s within the CAMHS services. These points were raised with me in debate in the chamber.”

She added that: “I very much have an open mind on this matter and look forward to receiving the evidence gathered by this Committee.” Ms Hart also added that she hoped if provisions for under 18s were to be made they would not require separate legislation.

During his evidence to the committee Mr Morgan expressed a concern that the Proposed Measure lacks the boldness he hoped it would have.

He said: “Hand on heart I don’t think the Measure is as ambitious as the LCO. We need to ensure this legislation is extended to those under the age of 18, that it is extended in the provision of advocacy, that it’s seamless and comprehensive and we also need to show the rest of the UK that this is how you need to reform mental health services.

” I’ve always seen this as the last great social reform. For many years we’ve been poor in providing services to people who live with the consequences of mental ill health – government and politicians have generally not engaged with this. We have a significant opportunity here to do something radical, exciting and to give people in Wales who live with mental ill health confidence to know the services are there for them. We need to be ambitious and use this as a golden opportunity.”

During today’s meeting Ms Hart and Mr Morgan expressed opposing views on whether the Measure should include a legally enforceable time limit from referral by a GP for assessment for secondary mental health services to that assessment being carried out.

Mr Morgan said it was “sensible for timescales to be put in legislation” although he was uncertain whether this condition should be placed in the Measure or the targets of the Government’s Annual Operating Framework.

Ms Hart said: “I was very interested that witnesses expressed concerns about timescales because assessments should always be based on clinical need not on legally based time limits.

“In the NHS we’ve always tried to prioritise according to clinical need because that represents basic fairness and equity for all users within the NHS.

“I don’t think timescales will achieve strong care coordination or effective care planning.

“What we must ensure is that the right treatment is given to the individual and that the right clinical judgements are made in respect of the individual’s treatment.”

To view today’s evidence-gathering session please visit: http://www.senedd.tv/index.jsf