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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
New mental health laws questioned
Mental health patient
Under new laws, patients can be forced to take medication
New mental health laws do not go far enough, an alliance of 75 organisations working with mentally ill people says.

The Mental Health Alliance (MHA) has questioned community treatment orders, a key part of the Mental Health Act, which came into force last month.

The orders can force patients to take medication in the community if they pose a risk to themselves or others.

The MHA says this gives too much power to psychiatrists without giving the mentally ill a right to more services.

Ministers have been trying to update mental health legislation since 1998.

It took nine years of wrangling before the controversial Mental Health Act passed into law at the end of July.

'Right skills'

The MHA, which includes charities, carers and professionals, says there are improvements but also worrying developments.

The new laws allow doctors to issue the supervised community treatment orders, which force patients to take medicine and place them under detention if required.

No amount of legislation is going to be better than having the right amount of people with the right training and the right skills to engage people who are suffering from severe mental illnesses
Nigel Lester
Consultant

Where someone leaves hospital and then stops taking their medication, a treatment order could be made forcing them to be readmitted.

The alliance says intensive support for mental health patients, rather than treatment orders, can transform lives.

Nigel Lester, a consultant at Springfield Hospital in south-west London, said: "No amount of legislation is going to be better than having the right amount of people with the right training and the right skills to engage people who are suffering from severe mental illnesses."

But the government maintains the new law is a vital step towards modernising mental health services now that most patients are treated in the community.

The shake-up in the law has been driven by Michael Stone's 1998 conviction for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell.

Stone was regarded as a dangerous psychopath and it had been assumed he was not held under mental health powers because his condition was considered untreatable.

This was subsequently found not to be the case as he was receiving treatment but gaps in his care meant he was not given the correct treatment.




SEE ALSO
Compromise on mental health bill
19 Jun 07 |  Politics
Mental Health Bill 'has balance'
16 Apr 07 |  Politics
Ministers lose mental health vote
19 Feb 07 |  Politics

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