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Mental health bill axed

24th March 2006

The government announced yesterday that the mental health bill is to be axed.

The bill, which has been in development for eight years at a cost of millions of pounds, will be abandoned and an amendment to current legislation proposed instead.

Under the abandoned plans the scope for locking up people with mental disorders in the interests of public safety was to be extended.

The new streamlined amending bill will introduce supervised treatment in the community "to ensure that patients who have been discharged from compulsory treatment in hospital continue to comply with treatment", the Department of Health said today.

It will also use a "new simplified definition of mental disorder" and remove the "treatability" clause, which states that people with a mental health disorder that is seen as untreatable are not taken into care.

Supervised community treatment will be used for "suitable patients" following an initial period of detention and treatment in hospital.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said: "This new approach will fulfil our commitment to delivering modern mental health services via a streamlined bill which will be simpler to understand and less costly to implement than previous proposals."

Despite broadly welcoming the announcement, the Liberal Democrats expressed concern that scrapping the entire bill was a "lost opportunity" to reform mental health provision.