Urgent work needed to boost mental health safeguards

Scottish Liberal Democrats today kept pressure on the Scottish Government to improve struggling mental health services.

During Portfolio questions, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Jim Hume MSP asked the new Mental Health Minister what he planned to do to address a 3.4 percent overall fall in the number of Mental Health Officers at a time when compulsory treatment orders are at their highest since the Mental Health Act was implemented in 2005.

Mental health officers are specialists social workers who play a key role when people, under the act, are detained in hospital. There was a 5 percent fall across Scotland in mental health officer consent for emergency detention in hospital.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have raised concerns over the protection of the rights of the individual with Mental Welfare Commission figures showing 42 percent of emergency detentions are reported to have had no mental health officer consent.

During the exchange at Portfolio questions today, Mental Health Minister Jamie Hepburn said that the Government was looking into this matter further with stakeholders.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Hume said:

“The Mental Welfare Commission place great importance on the role of the Mental Health Officer because these highly skilled practitioners are important safeguards in protecting the rights of individuals when it is proposed they are detained under the Mental Health Act.

“It’s therefore alarming to note there has been a 3.4 percent fall in the overall number of MHO’s despite the number of compulsory treatment orders being at their highest since the Mental Health Act was implemented. Currently 42 percent of these detentions have no mental health officer consent.

“A compulsory detention order can have a great impact on a person’s life, including their property and possessions. It is important that this safeguard is protected. With most emergency detentions taking place outwith office hours I hope Scottish ministers will also work with health boards and local authorities to consider out of hours MHO services.

“The Minister must treat this matter with the urgency it deserves if we are to give people with mental health problems the best opportunities in life.”

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