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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 17:08 GMT
Mental health overhaul plans
Depressed woman
Mental health problems are widespread
Proposals for a radical overhaul of Scotland's mental health legislation have been put before the Scottish Executive.

The existing legislation, the Mental Health Act 1984, was reviewed by Millan Committee, chaired by the Rt Hon Bruce Millan, to reflect changes in mental health care in recent years.

The committee came up with more than 100 recommendations, including:

  • Measures to allow for some patients to be compulsorily treated in the community rather than hospital

  • The creation of a new independent tribunal, replacing the role of the sheriff court in considering compulsory measures

  • Compulsory care and treatment should only be used as a last resort and be linked to a patient care plan

  • Reforms to the system for dealing with mentally disordered offenders, including new arrangements for the discharge of restricted patients

The Millan Committee was appointed in February 1999 by former Scottish health minister, Sam Galbraith, to look at reforming the Mental Health Act which has many provisions dating back as far as 1960.

There have been huge changes in mental health care since then and a shift from institutional care towards community based services.

People playing cards
Care in the community has been "under-funded"
The committee's proposals were based on 10 key principals to ensure the rights of service users and carers were treated with fairness and respect.

Most people with mental illnesses are not forced to stay in hospital - 90% are voluntarily admitted.

Currently, long term detention of patients is authorised by the sheriff court but the Millan Committee recommended that this be replaced with a three-person mental health tribunal.

The new system will involve medical and other expertise, and would be chaired by a legal member.

'Inadequate services'

Mr Millan said: "This would be a major reform. It should improve the quality of decision making and enhance the credibility of the system in the eyes of patients and carers."

However, he warned that for reforms to work, adequate resources needed to be provided.

"The issue of resources was not within our remit, but we received a great deal of evidence that services for people with mental health problems are still inadequate, both in hospital and in the community.

"This is not only detrimental to the interest of patients and carers, but places additional stress on the staff involved in the services."

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See also:

25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Call for mental health law repeal
20 Dec 00 | Health
Tougher controls for mentally ill
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