Mental Health Alliance welcomes capacity bill

18 June 2004

"The Government has made a big step towards recognising the importance of a personís capacity to make decisions for themselves," Mental Health Alliance chair Paul Farmer said today.

Speaking on the day the Mental Capacity Bill was published, Paul Farmer said: "The Government is right to put this Bill through Parliament before the Mental Health Bill. But it must ensure that some of the most vulnerable people with mental health problems receive the protection they need when they are being treated for a psychiatric illness.

"One group of people with mental health problems may now get less protection under the Mental Capacity Bill than the Government orginally proposed for them in a future Mental Health Act. People with long-term mental health problems who lack capacity to consent to their treatment and who are in hospital, nursing homes or residential care need particular safeguards to ensure their human rights are protected.

"The Mental Health Alliance believes that people in this situation should have a care plan that is reviewed every six months. They should have full rights to to mental health advocacy, to Mental Health Tribunals and to a nominated person to speak up for them. There should also be special safeguards over the use of electro-convulsive therapy and of long term medication for this group.

"We welcome the provision for advance directives in the Bill but believe that these need a stronger role as they are the only means by which a person can ensure that their wishes are respected once they lose the capacity to express them directly."

Notes to Editors