Campaign raises alarm over Government plans to remove mental health sectioning safeguards

Campaign raises alarm over Government plans to remove mental health sectioning safeguards

Britain’s only black newspaper, The Voice has joined forces with human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK to raise awareness about planned changes to the law which they fear are likely to have a devastating effect on African Caribbean Communities living in the UK.

In a special edition supplement to mark World Mental Health Day, these leading community publishers have focused on the little known consultation on Government plans to rush through emergency changes to the Mental Health Act. The new proposals will sweep away safeguards set in place to ensure that those who are deemed as needing to be detained and medicated against their will are assessed by two doctors in order to ensure that the deprivation of their liberty is not subject error.

However in Department of Health emergency proposals a swine flu pandemic would do away with such safeguards sparking fears that this will lead to a raft of injustices.
BMH UK say that the consequences of these changes are too serious for Britain’s black communities to ignore and have launched an online campaign calling on visitors to their website to download and send a letter to their MP calling on them to speak out against these changes when parliament reconvenes in October.
Findings from the Count Me In Census on inpatient care has revealed that detention rates under the Mental Health Act for people from African and Caribbean communities is at an all time high.

‘The black press’ involvement in this issue is an indication of the growing understanding of the impact that mental health services are having on Britain’s black communities. This is no longer about an individual’s health but rather the health and wellbeing of a whole community and with this has come a realisation that things need to change for the better. The proposals within this consultation have to be revised in order to ensure that this happens,’ Matilda Macattram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

‘A second opinion doctor can be critical as cultural issues in relation to behaviour, values and beliefs can sometimes play a part in interpreting a person’s behaviour, if that safeguard is removed, it could put us back years, instead of moving forward in the arena of race equality in mental health services,’ Alicia Spence director of services at ACCI (African Caribbean Community Initiative) based in Wolverhampton said.

‘These proposals would make the process of sectioning people cheaper because they wouldn’t have to pay a second person, and they are looking for ways to save money but it would be better for the Government to substitute rather than remove safeguards. If this is about addressing staffing shortages then the Government could always call on retired doctors. If there aren’t enough policemen then special constables are called in and the same with the army,’ Prof Suman Fernando, senior lecturer at the University of Kent at Canterbury and visiting professor at London Metropolitan University said.

‘A health professional’s view needs to be balanced even in an emergency situation. There are some key issue that we need to address in order to ensure that justice is done in this arena, because in many cases it is an issue of justice. The system is already being flooded with AC people and this would make it worse.
We have to be sensitive to the possibility of a second flu pandemic but there is a pandemic taking place in the system right now and it has been in place for a long time and we need to get the balance right,’ Rev Paul Grey of New Testament Church of God said.

‘The swine flu pandemic does not justify the erosion of human rights of the vulnerable. This is a badly thought out policy and looks like an excuse to reduce costs. In the long term this could prove to be a very expensive as it is putting both patients and clinicians in a very vulnerable position rather than addressing the very pressing problems of staff shortages in this sector,’ Pastor Desmond Hall, chair of Christians Together in Brent said.

‘I am very concerned about the rush and the lack of consultation. Black people are already over represented in mental health wards. If the numberof medical professionals are reduced and only one Doctor is required in order for individuals to be sectioned under the mental health act. It is very likely the numbers will increase significantly,’ Jackie Mclean at Om nicare Community Services Ltd said.

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