Third time lucky?

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 23 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1090
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. 1BMJ

    The government is planning its third attempt to change mental health law in England and Wales, but the concerns of professional and legal groups about civil liberties and the rights of mentally ill people remain

    The government is steeling itself for a struggle to push through controversial reforms to mental health legislation in England and Wales. The plans, unveiled last week in the Queen's speech, are strongly opposed by mental health and legal organisations, opposition parties, and many of the government's own backbench MPs.

    The Mental Health Bill, which will allow preventive detention of people with dangerous and severe personality disorders and compulsory treatment in the community, is the government's third attempt to get such legislation passed. Two previous tries to replace the existing Mental Health Act 1983 with a new act were dropped in the face of opposition.

    Andy Bell, chairman of the Mental Health Alliance, which embraces 78 organisations and charities, declared the bill “flawed” and said that campaigners would be “profoundly disappointed.”

    He said, “The legislation falls far short of what is needed and does not truly reflect the needs of those who have to live and work with it. It introduces new powers for services without the necessary safeguards for patients.”

    Reform of the law concerning treatment of patients who are a danger to themselves or others …

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