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UK mental health provision harming patients

A new report and survey have revealed that the UK public do not support proposed laws which would make it easier to detain and treat people with mental health problems against their wishes and that the new GP contract is failing patients with depression

According to a survey commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the UK public do not support proposed laws which would make it easier to detain and treat people with mental health problems against their wishes.

The YouGov poll showed that 72 per cent of those surveyed did not think that people with mental health problems should be forced to have treatment from which they cannot benefit. And 68 per cent did not believe that hospitals should be used to detain people with mental health problems, if they could not benefit from treatment and had not committed a crime.

The results were released in advance of this week's second reading of the Mental Health Bill in the House of Commons. The Government has indicated it intends to force through amendments to the current Bill. The Bill was heavily defeated in the Lords two months ago when peers said that doctors would only be allowed to detain patients if there was a clear therapeutic benefit.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that the new amendment would bring far more people who cannot benefit from treatment within the scope of mental health legislation and make it more likely people would be detained and treated inappropriately.

The YouGov poll also showed that the public views are based on first-hand knowledge of mental health issues. Sixty-three per cent of those polled knew someone who has suffered from mental health problems and 88 per cent of those did not believe that these people presented a risk to the public.

Professor Sheila Hollins, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "The danger in such overtly tough, overly inclusive legislation is that it will deter people with serious mental health problems from seeking early help. Without such treatment they could become a risk to the public, while remaining unknown to the very people who could help them. It may also make patients so fearful of incarceration that they may not be open with us about their symptoms. Thirdly it will be a strain on resources. If valuable hospital beds are filled with people who can't be helped then they won't be available for patients who can be effectively treated."

Norman Lamb, the Lib-Dem health spokesman, declared: "This Bill is wholly unacceptable. It undermines the civil liberties of people with mental health problems and it is contrary to the public interest."

Tory shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley revealed that one in five mental health beds had been cut since 1997 even though ministers wanted to detain more patients: "While the number of people sectioned has hit its highest level in history, the NHS financial crisis is forcing the closure of mental health beds throughout the country."

It is likely that the Lib-Dems and the Conservatives will use the second reading of the Bill in the Commons to force the government to keep the House of Lords' amendments.

Report says new GP contract fails patients with depression...
A new report entitled, "Now We're Talking!", has exposed gaps in the care provided for people with depression, which could be addressed by improvements to the current GP contract.

In 2006, Depression Alliance and SANE welcomed the recognition of depression within the GP contract and called for a broadening of the contract. The survey results identified many inadequacies in the diagnosis and management of depression which revisions in the contract could address, especially for ongoing care.

The report publishes the personal experiences of over 450 people living with depression and was developed in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary healthcare professional advisory committee, the report highlights changes that could be made to the GP contract would would have a positive impact on all stages of the condition's management: during diagnosis; at the initiation of treatment; and during ongoing care.

Emer O'Neill, CEO of Depression Alliance commented: "This survey shows quite clearly that the GP contract is vital in helping the millions of people in the UK diagnosed with depression on the road to recovery. On average, a GP sees one person with depression in every surgery and changes in the contract will go a long way to enabling GPs to make real progress tackling this serious mental illness."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of SANE added: "Our evidence shows that people with depression are waiting up to a year to receive a diagnosis. The longer a person goes without treatment, the more entrenched their feelings of hopelessness and despair can become - suffering which can often be unnecessary as two thirds of those with the condition can recover. That is why the breakdown in negotiations between NHS Employers and the General Practitioners Committee should not influence the early detection of depression and the provision of counselling, medication or both."

The full report can be downloaded from the following link: http://www.depressionalliance.org/documents/Now-Were-Talking-Report.pdf

18th April 2007

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