Service Users, Families And Staff Concerned About Mental Health Bill

People with an experience of mental illness and those who care for them are today descending upon Parliament to tell MPs of their opposition to the Government’s Mental Health Bill. As the Bill receives its second reading in the House of Lords, service users, carers and professionals from across England and Wales are joining the Mental Health Alliance Mass Lobby of Parliament.

The Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of 78 organisations, has organised the Lobby to give the people who are affected by the Bill the opportunity to express their concerns about it. For eight years the Alliance has been campaigning for modern legislation during which time the Government has been forced to withdraw two draft bills, abandoning unworkable proposals.

The Mental Health Alliance believes the Bill now before Parliament is deeply flawed and increases the scope of compulsory treatment further than is necessary, and has too few safeguards for patients’ welfare.

Andrew Voyce, a campaigner and service user from Sussex, said: “It is deplorable that the provisions of the new proposals for legislation mean that treatment need not be therapeutic, and place onerous restrictions on service users. I would not blame people subject to the provisions of the new proposals, if they, like I once did, decided that life on the streets would be better.”

Adam Barrett, 25, a service user volunteer worker with a national charity, from Cheshunt, said: “The new Bill doesn’t offer hope to people and fails to provide them with help to voice any concerns about treatment. It is a shame that advocates aren’t in the Government’s proposals because I know from my own experience such support would play a vitally needed role in safeguarding the wishes of young people, in particular, when faced with unacceptable compulsory treatment.”

Dr Tony Zigmond, a psychiatrist in Leeds and Honorary Vice President at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Of course I sometimes need the authority to treat some of my patients without their consent. The problem with this Bill is that it will increase the stigma and fear that people face when they consider telling me about their mental health problems. As a doctor I need service users to trust that I will always put their health first. We need legislation with principles that strengthen the rights of service users and carers.”

Also today, the Bill receives its second reading in the House of Lords. Mental Health Alliance members call on Parliament to scrutinise the Bill in great detail and make it fit for the twenty-first century.