§ Mr. Brazier
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions she has had with the Royal College of Psychiatrists about new legal provisions for mentally ill people in the community; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mr. Blunkett
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to seek to amend the Mental Health Act 1983; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has recommended that the Mental Health Act 1983 should be amended to incorporate a community supervision order. The college proposes that this should apply to a small group of patients who are repeatedly admitted to hospital under sections 3 or 37 of the Mental Health Act 1983 and who require long-term support and supervision in the community, but are known to have a history of failing to cooperate with treatment.
I welcome the college's proposals as a constructive contribution to the debate about how mentally ill people can most effectively be helped and looked after in the community. Services for the mentally ill in the community have expanded rapidly in recent years and they represent an increasing proportion of the £2 billion budget annually spent on the mentally ill by health and social services departments. But we do need to address, as a priority, whether we are doing enough to ensure that these vulnerable people keep in contact with the services available.
I have recently had discussions on this subject with the college and with a number of other professional and voluntary organisations. I have asked my officials to consider urgently, in the light of the college's proposals, whether new legal powers are needed to ensure that mentally ill people in the community get the care they need, whether the present legal powers in the 1983 Mental Health Act are being used as effectively as they can be, and what action could be taken in advance of any new legislation to ensure that they are.
This work will be taken forward urgently by a small departmental team. It will take full account of the views which outside interests have expressed to me. They and others concerned with services for mentally ill people will be consulted about the work as it develops. My officials will be keeping in close touch with the other Departments concerned including those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The team will be reporting regularly to Ministers and I am asking them to complete their work within six months.