Warning on mental health policy

18 May 00
Community psychiatric nurses fear they may be used as 'the stormtroopers of the social risk agenda' if compulsory community health care is introduced.

19 May 2000

Martin Ward, director of the Royal College of Nursing's Mental Health Programme, voiced concern from college members during the Commons health select committee inquiry into provision of NHS mental health services.

He explained that proposals in the government's green paper, Reform of the Mental Health Act 1983, to allow for compulsory mental health treatment in the community could create difficulties in the already complex relationships between nurses and mental health patients.

In written evidence to the inquiry, the RCN has raised concerns that compulsory care in the community will lead to patients who need hospital care being treated at home because of bed shortages and medication being used as a substitute for adequate mental health care.

'If these people need to be treated this badly they need to be in hospital, not in the community,' said Ward.

Dr Mike Shooter, the registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) told the inquiry that his organisation supports proposals to extend compulsory care beyond hospitals, but questioned whether existing teams have sufficient resources to carry out the policy effectively. He said: 'How can you give proper care when you are running around all over the place?'

Written evidence to the inquiry from the RCP also expressed fear that the balance between the interests of society and the rights of mentally ill people has become heavily weighted in favour of public safety in recent proposals.

The RCP's evidence says the government consultation paper, Managing dangerous people with severe personality disorder, which contains proposals to detain people who are deemed to be a risk to society may be 'unethical and misguided'.


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