Mental Health Act A “Missed Opportunity”

Health campaigners have dismissed the long awaited new Mental Health Act as a missed opportunity. The new Act is an attempt to reform the Mental Health Act 1983, particularly to ensure that people with serious mental disorders which threaten their health or the public’s health can be treated whether or not they have given their consent.

This would be achieved by community treatment orders, which caused alarm amongst health organisations and the House of Lords when outlined in the mental health bill.

Despite concessions made to the bill, the Mental Health Alliance (MHA) has expressed concern today about the restrictions that could be placed on people’s liberty.

Vice-chair Rowena Daw described the Act as “profoundly paternalistic”. “The refusal to include any test of impaired decision-making and the failure to give patients a right of appeal against the restrictions placed on them while on community treatment orders are fundamental weaknesses in our legislation that will eventually have to be put right,” she said.

Alliance chair Andy Bell added: “While other countries, often with less well-developed mental health services, are fundamentally modernising their mental health laws, our already outdated law has at best been mildly improved. The overall verdict of Alliance members is that the 2007 Act is a disappointment. Progressive measures such as giving people greater choice and rights to services, have been omitted.”