With the Mental Health Bill for England and Wales going through Committee stage in the House of Commons today [24 April 2007], the BMA is concerned that the proposed legislation will harm patients with mental health disorders.
Currently two doctors [at least one must be a consultant psychiatrist] have to agree before anyone is detained under the Mental Health Act but the Government is proposing to change this and widen professional roles within this field.
Under the new Bill, it is proposed that doctors, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers could receive training that would enable them to have overall charge and be the responsible clinician for a patient who is sectioned. This could mean that for some patients there could be the possibility of no medical input at all.
The Chairman of the BMA psychiatry committee, Dr JS Bamrah, said today:
"Psychiatrists have undergone in-depth and intensive medical training so that they can provide the best, up-to-date healthcare to patients suffering from mental health disorders. As the delivery of mental health services is multi-disciplinary, there should be recognition of the professional roles involved but the Government's proposals go too far.
"A decision to detain a patient is a very serious one and it would be irresponsible to by-pass clinicians when detention decisions are being made. We strongly urge the Government to think again and ensure that psychiatrists are fully engaged in caring for these very vulnerable patients. It is well documented that psychiatric patients often suffer from a range of medical problems so it is vital that the clinician responsible for their overall care is also able to deal effectively with a range of health issues."