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mental health act: more flexibility for professionals

Comment 2nd July 2010

Professionals should have more flexibility when deciding whether or not to release information to CARING families. At present, a patient who shows hostility to his/her family, as a result of their illness, and NOT the behaviour of the family, can refuse to allow sharing of information. This leaves distressed families in more pain, as they do not know what the plans are for the treatment of their loved one. There have been hotch-potch amendments to Mental Health Act driven by fears of litigation under Human Rights. The whole Act should be looked at again., and re-drafted, removing the strait jacket from professionals and enabling them to use their own judgement about how a family could be involved. Also, the notion of competence needs looking at. At present, if a patient is not psychotic they are deemed competent, This is often NOT the case, as they may be harbouring wrong ideas, e.g. in the case of sufferers from severe OCD,  which then leads them to make wrong decisions. The balance of human rights v protection of the patient must be reversed in favour of protection.

Why does this matter?

because patientsd are being released into the community when they are only at the beginning of treatment, and are making inappropriate decisions as a result of continuing illness. This could , and has,lead some into real danger of harm, and the hands of meidcal professionals are tied. Also, a loving family can be a great help in understanding and helping a patient, and where the patient is refusing to share information with the family, the professionals should be able to assess whether the family is 'OK' or not and share information as appropriate, for the benefit of the patient and the human rights of the family to know what is being done to their family member Ultimately this will lead to better treatment, fewer re-admissions and fewer tragedies..


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