Hundreds rally to oppose ‘failed’ Bill

31 January 2005

Hundreds of mental; health service users, carers and professionals rallied in London today (Monday January 31, 2005) to hear the government’s controversial Mental Health Bill blasted as “failed in concept and practice.”

The rally has been organised by the Mental Health Alliance- the 60-member coalition that includes the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mental Health Foundation, Royal College of Nursing, Rethink, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Mind and the National Union of Students.

Alliance chair Paul Farmer said: "Hundreds of 'real experts' - the people who use mental health services and work in them - have come together to reinforce the message we have given to the government over and over again - this draft Mental Health Bill in its present form is all about increasing compulsion and it simply won't work. It has failed in its basic concepts and will, if it ever becomes law, fail in practice.

We want to work with the government to modernise mental health law. The report due in March from the joint parliamentary scrutiny committee looking at the draft Bill will give the government the perfect opportunity to start afresh.

Together, we can produce a new Bill based on rights to care and treatment that is fit for the 21st century and that will have the support of service users, carers and professionals. We just need the political will."

-end-

Notes to editors:

The Road to the Bill:

  • The draft Bill has caused concern amongst professionals, carers and service users alike.
  • The Bill threatens to increase the number of people who can be given compulsory treatment, by widening the conditions for compulsion and extending compulsory treatment into the community.
  • Its provisions would also make it harder to move out of compulsory treatment when it is no longer needed.
  • Like previous drafts, it focuses on dangerousness and risk management, setting the government at odds with those this legislation is intended to help.
  • As it stands, the Bill is confusingly drafted, and lacks regulations and codes of practice which are essential in order fully to understand its content and implications.
  • The Alliance and its members have pointed out numerous concerns about individual aspects of the Bill, many of which are set out in our submission to the scrutiny committee that is currently looking at the Bill.
  • What they’re saying about the Bill

    Dr Tony Zigmond, Vice-President, The Royal College of Psychiatrists said: "The College is proud to be a core member of the Mental Health Alliance, which has united mental health professionals, users and carers in demanding better mental health legislation that is fit for the 21st century. The Mental Health Alliance Rally is an important and exciting opportunity for patients and carers to have their voice heard in Westminster."

    Rethink Chief Executive Cliff Prior: "The message from today's rally is clear and unequivocal. The government must think again. Its concentration on extending compulsion is totally out of step with its drive to increase choice and personal control in other areas of health."<

    Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health Acting Chief Executive Angela Greatley: "Mental health service users, carers and staff have long voiced strong opposition to the government's plans to change the law. This is an important opportunity for them to get together and make their voices heard. I hope their concerns, their views and their ideas will be considered very carefully by those responsible for the new legislation."

    Gil Hitchon, Chief Executive, Maca: "This rally is a great opportunity for everyone here to demonstrate our continued concerns at the direction of the government’s plans to reform mental health law. It’s vital that ministers listen to the real experts in mental health "the people who use mental health services" and make real, positive changes."

    NUS Students with Disabilities Officer Sian Davis:"The Bill means that students with mental health problems will begin to face discrimination on the grounds of mental health as well as the removal of their civil rights".

    Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: "The fact that people from across England and Wales have voted with their feet and come to the Mental Health Alliance rally today should be enough evidence for the government that it needs to act. People who use mental health services need to have a say in how they’re treated, and they clearly feel they aren’t being listened to."

    Marjorie Wallace chief executive of SANE said: "We continue to fight for a humane mental health system which protects the individuals and families whose voices were heard yesterday. We hope the government will listen to people’s concerns and accept that new laws must be met with much improved services, leaving compulsion as a last resort."

    Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive, Turning Point said: "This is an important reminder to government that the Bill is fundamentally flawed. It is too heavily focussed on compulsion and currently there are neither the financial resources nor the workforce to implement it."