Article about mental health law gave practical guidance

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7139.1242a (Published 18 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1242
  1. Teifion Davies, Senior lecturer in community psychiatry
  1. United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals, St Thomas's Hospital, London SE1 7EH

    EDITOR—Leigh's comments1 on Barker's article2 would be less offensive if they were helpful. While his narrow reading of the Mental Health Act (1983) is correct, he does not seem to be aware that practitioners are required to pay attention to the more stringent conditions set out in the code of practice to the act.

    Paragraph 2.25 of the code of practice states explicitly: “Other than in exceptional circumstances, the second medical recommendation should be provided by a doctor with previous acquaintance of the patient.”3 With regard to who should make an application for admission, paragraph 2.30 states: “The approved social worker is usually the right applicant …. The doctor should therefore advise the nearest relative that it is preferable for an approved social worker … to make the application.” Since this is exactly the guidance that Barker gives it is hard to see how Leigh can justify calling the article “muddled,” “wrong,” and “a travesty of the act.”

    Although Leigh is correct in that the treatability criterion does not apply to section 2 of the act, his point could have been made simply and without vituperation.

    Finally, Leigh does not understand that this ABC article aimed to provide succinct, practical guidance to practitioners, and not “to emphasise some of the idiosyncrasies involved [in the Mental Health Act].” That would be the material for a very different—and very long—article.


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