Published: 12/12/2001, Volume II2, No. 5835 Page 9

The Mental Health Act Commission is facing an uncertain future in the wake of the resignation of its chair and chief executive.

Chief executive Paul Hampshire and chair Margaret Clayton left for 'personal reasons' in September and October respectively, though sources indicate there was a personality clash.

While vice-chair Professor Kamlesh Patel took over as chair, the chief executive post remains empty. Cheryl Robinson, director of finance at the commission, has been acting as chief executive.

The commission is currently recruiting to fill the post as a twoyear secondment. But a spokesperson said it was 'not very likely' that someone would be appointed 'overnight'.

Set up under the 1983 Mental Health Act, the commission is an independent watchdog looking at how the act is applied.

It is likely to be abolished when new mental health laws are passed, and the Department of Health has proposed that the new Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection should take over its functions.

But legislation to establish CHAI is likely to precede the delayed mental health bill, complicating the commission's legal position.

Last year, there was significant restructuring at the commission, with over half the board members newly appointed.

Its 2001-02 annual report admitted serious problems recruiting senior staff, noting: 'Any areas of failure or under-achievement against plans indicated within this report are usually attributable, sometimes indirectly, to the vacancy position.'