Government uses threat of flu pandemic to propose change to mental health act

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 03 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4982
  1. Helen Mooney
  1. 1London

The government plans to make it easier for doctors to detain and forcibly treat people with suspected mental health problems under emergency measures, prompted by fears of a shortage of medical staff during an influenza pandemic.

Publishing its response to the 2009 consultation on proposed changes to the 1983 Mental Health Act on 29 July, the Department of Health for England confirmed that during a pandemic a single doctor, rather than the usual two, would be able to place individuals in mental institutions and authorise them to receive drugs without consent.

The health department launched the consultation two years ago after concerns about severe staff shortages that may arise in a swine flu pandemic, which officials estimated at the time could affect up to a quarter of …

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