Minister announces review of mental health legislation

Legislation governing the treatment of people with mental health issues will be reviewed, Scotland’s Mental Health Minister has announced.

Clare Haughey said Scotland’s Mental Health Act was “groundbreaking” when it came into force in 2005 but that it was time to re-examine it.

It will now be reviewed along with legislation covering adults with incapacity and those requiring support and protection.

In a statement to Holyrood, Ms Haughey said the review will put those with experience of mental health problems and their carers at the centre.

She said: “This overarching review will examine the full legislative framework which supports and protects those with a mental disorder.

“People affected by profound mental health issues must have the same rights as everyone else.

“This includes respecting the right to have a private and family life, protection from discrimination as well as participating in those decisions which involve them.”

She added: “We need to hear the voices of those who have been through mental health difficulties and accessed mental health services and their carers, as well as partners and stakeholders.”

The review will cover the use of seclusion and restraint, which she said should only be used as a “last resort”.

There was cross-party support for the announcement, with all parties stressing that everyone, including people with mental health problems, should be empowered to make decisions about their own lives.

Labour’s David Stewart welcomed the review saying both the Mental Health Scotland Act and the Adults With Incapacity Act, currently under review, were pioneering at the time but “in light of current international human rights laws, they now look increasingly dated”.

Conservative MSP Annie Wells asked when the review would conclude and for a timetable for its recommendations to be implemented.

Ms Haughey said it is expected to take around a year but would not commit to a timetable, saying doing so would not do “justice” to the issue.

Backbench SNP MSP Angela Constance said that despite an increase in the number of mental health officers, 22 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities still have a shortage of these staff.

Ms Haughey said it is up to local authorities to ensure they have sufficient mental health officers but the government has contacted interested parties regarding possible ways to increase their numbers.