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Mental health law comes into effect

6th October 2005

A new law has come into force today that provides people suffering from mental health problems and their families with greater rights.

The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act aims to offer better protection for mental health patients and introduces new rights and safeguards, including provision for patients to ask for an independent advocate, who will protect their rights if they are ill and are unable to speak for themselves.

Scottish deputy health and community care minister Lewis Macdonald explained: "Today is an important day for everyone in Scotland as the new Mental Health Act comes into effect.

"From today onwards, people experiencing mental health problems, their carers and families will benefit from legislation which offers them more rights and greater protections. The Act has been described as leading the way in Europe."

During a visit to the new Mother and Baby Mental Health Unit at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, Mr Macdonald also announced an extra £5 million worth of funding each year for the next two years for partnership spend on delivery of the new services. Agencies will also receive £5 million in funding for mental health services this year.

The act, which features a statement of principles designed to ensure that all interventions made under it are therapeutic in nature, will place greater emphasis on the patient's needs and will require greater effort from the NHS to deliver it. The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act also has a new section devoted to the treatment and care of child patients and bans the admittance of minors to adult psychiatric wards.

The British Medical Association (BMA) welcomed the new legislation, along with several leading mental health charities.