Mental health bill supported by Health Committee


Legislation which introduces changes to how people with mental health conditions access treatment has been supported by the Health and Sport Committee.

The Mental Health (Scotland) Bill also introduces a victim notification scheme for some mentally disordered offenders. 

However, in its stage one report into the Bill, the Committee has identified several issues that require further clarification. 

Convener of the Committee, Duncan McNeil MSP said:  

“Throughout Committee scrutiny of this Bill, MSPs have been mindful of the importance of balancing the right of the patient with the administrative processes in place that seek to deliver effective care. Broadly, the Committee believes the right balance has been achieved, however, there are a number of areas which need further clarification. It is also important to point out that this Bill is not a wholesale review of mental health legislation and policy, so our Committee has focused its consideration on the changes set out in these proposals.” 

Deputy Convener of the Committee, Bob Doris MSP said: 

“Our Committee was clear in its support for a victim notification scheme, as set out in the Bill. However, it must not operate to the detriment of those offenders suffering from a mental disorder. Therefore we are asking the Scottish Government how it will monitor the scheme including if there has been any impact on the offender’s recovery.”

The Committee is calling for clarification on the following points, including on: 

  • Continuous period of detention. Committee recommends that this provision be supported by a clear monitoring regime which records the reasons for delayed, rearranged and repeat tribunals and the length of pre-hearing detention for service users. This approach would help to deliver the policy aim of improving the experience for those in short term detention. It would also ensure it did not result in an overall longer period of pre-hearing detention;
  • New duties for mental health officers (MHO). The Committee seeks further assurances from the Scottish Government that the funding to support Mental Health Officers is adequate to ensure that the provisions relating to MHO duties in the Bill could be delivered effectively;
  • Nurse holding powers. The Committee notes the comments from the Royal College of Nursing that there would not be an advantage in extending the timescales for nurses to detain an individual pending a medical examination. The Committee asks for the Scottish Government for further information on this provision and what steps can be taken to increase the accuracy and detail of the data recorded on nurse holding powers. 
  • Time for appeal. The Committee notes the concern of witnesses regarding the proposal to reduce the appeal period for people transferred from one hospital to another from 12 weeks to 28 days. The Committee asks for the Government to provide further information as to the rationale and evidence which has informed its decision to include this in the Bill.
  • Representation by named persons. The Committee recognises the importance of protecting individuals who lack capacity but notes the possibility that the approach currently proposed could result in individuals having a named person who they do not want or whom they are not comfortable with.
  • Advance statements. The Committee believes that more work needs to be done to promote advance statements amongst service users and professionals and to identify and overcome the barriers to their usage. The Committee asks the Scottish Government to consider placing a statutory duty on health boards and local authorities to promote advance statements.   
  • Victim notification scheme. The Committee supports the provision to create a new notification scheme for victims of some mentally disordered offenders. However, it recognises it is important the scheme does not operate in ways that would discriminate against mentally disordered offenders. The Committee asks the Scottish Government for further information on how it will monitor the delivery of the scheme, including its uptake and the assessment of whether it has had any impact on an offender’s recovery.

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