Published: 26/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5824 Page 8 9
Mental health organisations in Scotland this week warned that new legislation will founder without significant extra investment.
The Mental Health Bill, introduced to the Scottish Parliament last week, has been better received than similar proposed legislation for England and Wales. But charities and other mental health groups still have major concerns.
The Scottish bill includes provision for compulsory treatment in the community, a new mental health tribunal to take decisions on compulsion, stronger duties on local authorities to provide care and support for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, and new advocacy rights.
Health and community care minister Malcolm Chisholm has promised£17.1m to implement the bill.Most of this is expected to be spent on setting up tribunals.
He has also promised£6m additional NHS expenditure.
But this has done little to allay the fears of campaigners. Scottish Association for Mental Health head of policy Richard Norris said: 'At a time when hundreds of millions of pounds are being released for the NHS in Scotland, it is deeply frustrating that the Scottish Executive has announced only£6m extra for mental health services along with the new bill - in contrast to an estimated£17m extra for financing new mechanisms to compel people to take medication.
'We should be focusing on creating accessible community services rather than new powers of compulsion in the community.'
The Scottish bill, now with the Scottish Parliament's health and community care committee, should become law before the English and Welsh version.
The differences between the two have been played up, particularly by English campaigners opposed to the English and Welsh bill. The Mental Health Foundation last week described the Scottish bill as a 'good working model for a redraft of the bill for England and Wales'. But overall the variations are more of tone than substance.
For example, both bills contain plans for compulsory treatment in the community, though the Scottish proposals emphasise this as being less restrictive than hospital detention, while the English focus appears to be on public safety.
Similarly, the Scottish bill has less emphasis on personality disorder, which has been the cause of much concern in England. But Scotland has already passed an amendment to previous mental health legislation to close the so-called Ruddle loophole (where an offender at the State Hospital, Carstairs, claimed he should be discharged because he was 'untreatable') by including personality disorder in mental disorder.
Scotland's Criminal Justice Bill, also at committee stage, has proposals on mentally disordered offenders, including those with personality disorder.
The Scottish bill has been largely based on the well-received report ofthe Millan committee which, after a thorough consultation made detailed recommendations on reform and underpinning principles.
The difference in emphasis also reflects historical variation between UK countries.Care in the community was introduced much more slowly in Scotland so did not have the same problems and backlash as was seen in some parts of England, particularly London.
But speaking for 54 other organisations, SAMH chief executive Shona Barcus said: 'While the proposals are not so draconian as those south of the border, there are areas that cause concern, including new powers of compulsion in the community and safeguards around controversial treatments.'