HC Deb 13 March 2003 vol 401 cc416-7W
Tim Loughton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of people who would be subject to compulsory treatment, whether resident or non-resident, under the proposals contained in the draft Mental Health Bill, who are currently exempt under the Mental Health Act 1983. [100820]

Jacqui Smith

[holding answer 4 March 2003]The 1983 Mental Act liberalised the law to incorporate more tolerant public attitudes in relation to sexual preference so that this could no longer be viewed as a condition of mental disorder. Also excluded were people who are substance or alcohol misusers.

However, people with psychosis exacerbated or caused by substance misuse, including alcohol, can be treated under the 1983 Act. A misunderstanding of section 1(3) of the Act has resulted in many instances in substance abusers being denied the treatment they need.

Proposals under the Bill will remove all exclusions to ensure that those who fulfil all the conditions for compulsion receive the help that they need.

The draft Mental Health Bill proposes a single broad definition of mental disorder, coupled with tightly drawn conditions that must be satisfied for compulsory powers to be used. It is the intention that the strict conditions will ensure that the powers are only used where the patient is suffering from a mental disorder which is serious enough to require treatment under the care of a mental health consultant; the risk to self or others warrants it and appropriate treatment is available for the individual patient. This approach would remove exclusions and the "treatability" requirement so that there are no arbitrary obstacles to the treatment of anyone who satisfies the conditions for compulsion.

While the new legislation will lead to some change in the group of people treated, overall it is not the intention that more people will be subject to compulsion under the Bill. Investment under the NHS Plan and service improvements under the national service framework for mental health, such as assertive outreach, crisis resolution and early intervention, will help to provide more effective care and ensure that fewer people become so ill that they need compulsory treatment.

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