The Royal College of Psychiatrists has welcomed Northern
Ireland’s announcement that it will introduce single Mental Health
and Capacity Legislation, saying that this sets a world lead in
bringing equality for people with mental health problems.
The Northern Ireland Minister for Health, Michael McGimpsey,
today announced plans for a single Mental Health and Capacity Bill.
This will mean that people who are unable to make decisions for
themselves will come under the same legislation, whether this is
for physical reasons or because of mental health conditions.
Professor Dinesh Bhugra, President of the Royal College of
Psychiatrists, said: "This move to single legislation makes very
good sense. We fundamentally consider that both mental health and
capacity legislations are there to support others to intervene when
mental disorder affects people’s capacity to make decisions about
their lives and treatment."
Professor Bhugra added: "Scotland, England and Wales each have
two pieces of legislation, which is often seen as one for ‘good’
people with incapacity who primarily require protection and another
for ‘bad’ people who primarily need detention and treatment against
their will. This effectively endorses the stigma that people with
mental illness face every day, and which inhibits recovery and is a
barrier to people living fully inclusive lives."
Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
Northern Ireland Division, said that the College had worked with
others in the mental health sector to lobby for this outcome.
He said: "We are pleased that the Health Minister has listened,
and we are pleased that the principle of autonomy integral in the
Bamford Review has been maintained, so that individuals who have
the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves will be
allowed to do so."
"The modernised legislation promises to be better for people
with mental health problems, and better for society as a whole.
Only a small proportion of people with mental health problems will
ever need to be detained, usually because they want to harm
themselves, and on some occasions because they are at risking of
harming others. These people should have the same rights and
protections anyone else to whom capacity legislation applies."
Dr McGarry continued: "Drafting a world-first piece of
legislation will be challenging, but there will be considerable
goodwill in the mental health and legal community in Northern
Ireland, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists has pledged to work
closely with the Department of Health to ensure that legislation
will work in practice."
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Note to editors:
The Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability in Northern Ireland published ‘A Comprehensive Legal Framework for Mental Health and Learning Disability’ report in August 2007, recommending a single legislative framework for Mental Health and Capacity legislation. It said the legislation should be principles based and enshrine the autonomy of the individual to make decisions.
The Northern Ireland Executive’s initial response was that it would first amend the Mental Health Order (1986) and then start the work to introduce the mental capacity legislation three years later.
Following responses to the consultation on its response to Bamford, the Department of Health accepted that changes to legislation should be simultaneous, and issued a consultation document on legislative reform in January 2009, outlining a twin track approach.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists and many others in the mental health field responded that Northern Ireland had a unique opportunity to introduce single Mental Health and Capacity legislation, and urged the Health Minister to set a world standard in doing so.