The Department of Health have today launched a consultation on whether they should make temporary changes to the Mental Health Act to allow for exceptional circumstances as a result of pandemic flu. The consultation will consider whether to reduce the number of professionals involved in sectioning people under the Act, should flu lead to severe staff shortages.
Mind's chief Executive, Paul Farmer, said:
"We recognise that these are exceptional circumstances and that to keep mental health services going during a period of low resource it is essential that emergency measures are in place. However, any proposals that will reduce the number of professionals involved in the sectioning process are concerning. Sectioning effectively deprives people of their liberty, and the reason that a number of professionals are involved is to ensure that the best decision is made for the patient, and no one is detained inappropriately. We have to be clear that these are serious changes, and should only be used as a last resort.
"The Government must ensure that plans are carefully crafted, clearly identifying how and when emergency powers will be triggered and that robust safeguards are in place to protect mental health patients. It is important that the Care Quality Commission plays a role as regulator to ensure that people will not be disadvantaged by any new measures introduced."