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The Mental Health Act

31st October 2008

The chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Angela Greatley, examines the implications of the Mental Health Act.

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The Mental Health Act 2007, implemented on November 3, will present major challenges for the NHS.

It extends the scope of compulsory powers and creates new safeguards for those subject to them; most significantly the introduction of supervised community treatment.

This can see people discharged from hospital into the community but with conditions that if not adhered to will see them recalled to hospital.

Just how many people will be affected is not clear. But what is important is that it is not perceived as a "default form of discharge from detention for everyone."

We also need to be clear on when it is appropriate to end a period of supervised community treatment, a course that should be the "exception, not the norm" for people.

A code of practice sets out conditions that should be agreed where possible with the service user and their carer. With no legal right to challenge them, agreement is important so that supervised community treatment is not "needlessly restrictive."

The delay until April 2009 of the right to independent advocacy leaves a serious gap in the network of support available.

In the meantime, the NHS should do all it can locally to close this gap. It needs to work to ensure that those people who are subject to the new conditions are offered advocacy as a priority – irrespective of whether it is a statutory duty.

 

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