New Forest East

HEALTH – MENTAL HEALTH BILL – 14 November 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: Will the Secretary of State [Alan Milburn] confirm that the Bill will not concentrate solely on the understandably controversial matter of people with untreatable personality disorders, but will also pay attention to an issue that has worried many of us – that people who have to have in-patient care for serious depression are put cheek-by-jowl with people who are seriously psychotic? In other words, there should be separate therapeutic environments for people with very different types of mental disorder.

[Mr Milburn: The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely good point. Inevitably, all the headlines will be about one aspect of the Bill; that is understandable. However, the Bill in its entirety is not about that issue. It is about how, from a system fundamentally based on 1950s legislation, to get a better balance between safeguarding individual patients' rights, and protecting the community as well as individual patients. It is absurd that, although most treatment takes place in the community rather than in hospital, because the current legislation does not allow compulsory treatment for the minority of patients who need it in the community, doctors must wait until they become so seriously ill that they are a threat to themselves or to others before they are admitted to hospital for compulsory treatment. That is palpable nonsense, and it is not good for the patient or for the community. That is what we must change. We will consider the responses extremely carefully. Make no mistake, reform must happen in mental health services, just as it must across the whole National Health Service.]