As any senior civil servant will tell you, a change of minister can have a more drastic effect on a department than a change of government. So mental health policy analysts are holding their breath with the arrival of John Hutton to succeed Paul Boateng as junior health minister. Labour's mental health plans are at a sensitive stage. The first draft of a national service framework is being circulated, a review of the Mental Health Act is in progress - and next week the government is due to unveil its mental health strategy.

Mr Hutton would appear a very different personality to Mr Boateng. But it is surely no coincidence that both are lawyers: that fact may signal no small measure of continuity in their approach. And the strategy may be too close to completion for the new minister to influence it. Perhaps the anxieties are exaggerated.

Yet uncomfortable memories of Mr Boateng's early days at the DoH are too vivid to dispel unease altogether. Like Mr Hutton, he arrived with no known interest in health. He brought with him attitudes which many mental health professionals found unpalatable. To his credit, he modified his views. But one of his legacies is the crass and glib assertion - now regularly echoed by some who should know better - that community care has been a failure. Not surprisingly, mental health opinion formers are aghast at the thought of having to start the process of re-education all over again with his successor.