Legislation which introduces changes to how people with mental health conditions access treatment has been supported by Holyrood's Health & Sport Committee.

In their stage 1 report into the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill, the MSPs go on to identify several issues that require further clarification.

Questions have been raised by the Law Society of Scotland whether the approach of the bill, which is based on recommendations of the McManus Review in 2009, continues to reflect best practice. The report however notes that while relatively limited in scope, the bill's intentions were broadly supported in evidence before it.

Among the points on which the committee calls for clarification are:

  • Regarding the period until an application for detention is determined, the committee recommends a clear monitoring regime to help deliver the policy aim of improving the experience for those in short term detention and prevent an overall longer period of pre-hearing detention.
  • Further assurances from the Scottish Government are sought that the funding to support mental health officers is adequate for the duties in the bill.
  • The committee asks for the Government to provide further information as to the rationale and evidence which has informed its decision to reduce the appeal period for people transferred from one hospital to another from 12 weeks to 28 days.
  • On representation by named persons, the committee recognises the importance of protecting individuals who lack capacity but notes the possibility that the approach currently proposed could result in individuals having a named person who they do not want or who they are not comfortable with.
  • The committee believes that more work needs to be done to promote advance statements amongst service users and professionals and to identify and overcome the barriers to their usage. It asks the Scottish Government to consider placing a statutory duty on health boards and local authorities to promote advance statements.
  • Members support the provision to create a new notification scheme for victims of some mentally disordered offenders. However, they recognise it is important the scheme does not operate in ways that would discriminate against mentally disordered offenders. They ask the Scottish Government for further information on how it will monitor the delivery of the scheme, including its uptake and the assessment of whether it has had any impact on an offender’s recovery.

Convener of the committee, Duncan McNeil MSP said: “Throughout committee scrutiny of this bill, MSPs have been mindful of the importance of balancing the right of the patient with the administrative processes in place that seek to deliver effective care. Broadly, the committee believes the right balance has been achieved; however, there are a number of areas which need further clarification. It is also important to point out that this bill is not a wholesale review of mental health legislation and policy, so our committee has focused its consideration on the changes set out in these proposals.”

Click here to view the committee's report.