LETTERS

Penny Dunman's excellent article on patient advocacy brings to mind the government's plans to table a new Mental Health Bill this winter. It has promised the mentally ill people who will be subject to new compulsory powers a right of access to advice and support from independent specialist advocacy services.

This is welcome, along with ministers' recognition that mental health advocacy requires specialist understanding, training and skills. But what choice of advocate will the patient have? Should advocates be people with experience of mental illness? Who will train the advocates? Who will fund the services, and will resources be cash-limited?

How early in the assessment process will advocacy be offered?

How will advocates be truly independent?

How will they fit in with 'nominated persons' and carers?

These questions need satisfactory answers before the bill is debated if mentally ill people are to be properly protected under the proposed compulsory powers.

Simon Lawton-Smith Mental Health Alliance (The Mental Health Alliance comprises 50 organisations, including MACA, Mind, MDF, the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, the Mental Health Foundation, the Afiya Trust, BASW, SANE, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing)