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Press Release

Alliances respond to Government decision on
Bournewood ammendments to Mental Capacity Act

Issue date: 29 June 2006

The Mental Health Alliance and Making Decisions Alliance today welcomed the Government’s plans to introduce  safeguards for people who lack capacity and need to be detained and cared for in a hospital or residential care home , but warned that they did not go far enough.

Richard Kramer, Chair of the Making Decisions Alliance said:
“The Mental Health Alliance and the Making Decisions Alliance welcome the fact that the Government has moved to provide safeguards to address the Bournewood gap.
“But we are disappointed that the proposals published today fail to adequately address this indefensible gap in mental health law.
The Making Decisions Alliance was established to ensure that people lacking mental capacity are able to access care and treatment and enjoy full protection from abuse.

Richard Kramer continued: “These proposals lack the robust safeguards needed to protect the rights of people who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves.
“The safeguards should be the same as those people are entitled to under the Mental Health Act.  The law needs to be fair, so that whether you are detained under the Mental Health Act or the Mental Capacity Act, you are provided with equal and effective safeguards”.
Mental Health Alliance chair and Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: “We are pleased that the Government is finally to provide safeguards for this vulnerable group of people .  But as currently drafted the plans will fail to offer them effective and robust protection.”

The Mental Health Alliance was established to ensure that a planned new Mental Health Act is fit for the 21st century.

Paul Farmer added: “The Court of Protection lacks the expertise and the resources to be able to deal with appeals from detained people in care homes or hospitals. Mental Health Review Tribunals, not the Court of Protection, should make decisions about their mental health care.  Detention should be limited to six months at a time, not 12.  And the Government should commit itself to providing free aftercare to those treated as ‘Bournewood’ patients.

“People detained for mental health treatment, under whatever legislation, should expect equality of treatment.  Today’s announcement does not represent the full equality we hope to see when the Mental Health Amendment Bill enters Parliament.”

The Mental Health Alliance and the Making Decisions Alliance are calling for the following key safeguards to be included in the new provisions:

  • People should be assessed by two doctors and a social worker
  • People should not be deprived of their liberty for longer than 6 months before there is an automatic review of their case
  • Appeals should be heard by the Mental Health Tribunal, not the Court of Protection.
  • Everyone should have the right to an independent advocate, not just those people without a friend or carer to help them
  • A second opinion should always be needed before someone has to undergo serious medical treatment
  • The Government must clearly commit itself to providing free aftercare services for Bournewood patients - similar to the rights given to patients detained under the Mental Health Act.

Notes to Editors

The Making Decisions Alliance (MDA) comprises of nearly 40 national and regional disability and older people's organisations and was formed in 2002 because the legal situation with mental capacity - the ability to make decisions for ourselves - was totally inadequate and affected so many people.
The Making Decisions Alliance therefore successfully campaigned for new legislation on mental capacity for England and Wales and was very influential in shaping the Mental Capacity Act 2005 which was passed by Parliament in April 2005.

For media enquiries to the Alliance please contact Andy Bell on 020 7827 8353 or 07810 503638.

The information on this page was provided by members of the Making Decisions Alliance. It was last updated on 2 October, 2006

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