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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 11:30 GMT
New mental health powers sought
Depressed man
Early mental health treatment could reduce compulsory hospital stays
An assembly member is to make the first attempt by a backbench politician to gain new powers for the institution.

Conservative AM Jonathan Morgan wants mental health patients to be assessed and treated earlier than at present.

To date, only the assembly government has made applications to the UK government for extra powers under the Government of Wales Act.

The powers would also allow for mental health patients to receive independent advocacy services during treatment.

Under the act passed last May, the assembly government, assembly committees and individual backbench AMs such as Mr Morgan can all put forward bids.

These are known as legislative competence orders (LCO), to gain additional law-making rights for the assembly.

If approved, the assembly still needs to pass a measure to make the order law, in this case ensuring that people with mental health difficulties have greater rights to earlier diagnosis and treatment, which at present takes longer than in England.

It will be money very well spent because if we can keep people out of hospital it will benefit them and benefit the NHS
John Abbott

Mr Morgan believes this could reduce the likelihood of further deterioration in mental health and remove the need for compulsory powers later on.

The order could also instigate advocates for mental health patients who could speak up for them if they become unable to do so for themselves during their treatment.

Mr Morgan told BBC Wales: "The problem at the moment is there are a substantial number of people who have a level of mental health problems that don't get treatment [early on].

"The crisis becomes so severe that they are detained under the Mental Health Act. Hafal, the mental health charity, reckon that half the people detained have asked for help at some point but have been ignored or had it denied.

"We should be doing more earlier on to make sure they can get that assessment and treatment."

Resources

John Abbott from Hafal, which works with families and individuals with severe mental illnesses, has been working with Mr Morgan on the LCO and thinks it will make a "massive difference" to sufferers.

"It means you can avoid compulsion. At the first instance of illness, if the LCO is successful, when you first appear before your GP you will have a legal right to receive a very early assessment of your health and well-being so the right services can be put in place for you right away," he said.

He admitted the order would have massive resource issues for the assembly government to put into place because of increased staff needs.

"It will be money very well spent because if we can keep people out of hospital it will benefit them and benefit the NHS," he said.

BMA Cymru Wales said it fully supported Mr Morgan and hoped to contribute to the debate over the next few months.

"The present UK Act is incapable of delivering the government's objectives of compulsory community-based treatment, management of people with personality disorders and extending the professional base of those able to provide services," it said.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Listen to Jonathan Morgan explain his bid



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