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Major reforms to build modern mental health services over the next two years and make them faster and fairer were u...
Major reforms to build modern mental health services over the next two years and make them faster and fairer were unveiled today by health secretary, Alan Milburn.

The radical plans form the biggest shake up of mental health legislation for 40 years and will ensure better treatment and care for people with mental health problems and better services for those who are severely mentally ill.

Mr Milburn said: 'For too many people care in the community has become 'couldn't care less in the community' sometimes with the most tragic consequences. I intend to change the law to give proper protection to the public and to patients.

'We will put in place more secure beds, more specialist crisis teams so that the severely mentally ill get the treatment they need and the public get the reassurances they expect. Modern mental health services must be fast and fair as well as safe and sound.

'When I became secretary of state for health I identified three priorities for modernisation - cancer, coronary heart disease and mental health. We have allocated extra money for fighting cancer and heart disease. Today I am giving the same commitment to modernise our mental health services.

'Millions of people in this country face mental illness at some point in their lives. We have already set out new national standards in the national service framework for mental health. It will tackle the lottery in care that means some patients in some areas are missing out on services and treatments that others receive.

'Today we take the modernisation of mental health services a stage further by announcing our plans to modernise mental health law.'

The measures include:

- Green paper on the reform of the Mental Health Act 1983. This will introduce compulsory care and treatment orders that can apply either in hospital or in the community;

- additional£40m in NHS mental health modernisation fund; and£13m in mental health grant to local authorities, next year;

- by April 2000 there will be an addition 57 crisis teams able to provide services for a further 5,000 patients. By April 2001 there will be on top of that an extra 50 crisis teams bringing the total to over 170 teams providing services to at least 15,000 people;

- 24 hour access to specialist mental health services for those most severely ill.

Announcing the package, at a visit to the Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham Mental Health NHS Trust, Mr Milburn said: 'The green paper represents the biggest shake up in mental health legislation for 40 years. We want modern mental health services which protect the public and the patient.

'The current mental health laws have failed. They have failed to properly protect the public, patients or staff. They were devised for a time when most patients were treated in hospital. The only powers to compulsory treat patients were if they were in hospital.

'It is the community as well as these patients who have paid a very heavy price indeed. The tragic toll of suicidesand homicides graphically illustrates the failure of the old system. Our new proposals will fundamentally overhaul our mental health services.

'We will deliver modern services backed by modern laws; and safe and sound protection for the public.'


1. Copies of the green paper 'Reform of the Mental Health Act -proposals for consultation', are available on the Department of Health website at:

2. Other copies, ISBN 0-10-1444802-3, are available from Department of Health, PO Box 77, LONDON SE1 6XH or by faxing 01623 724 524 or emailing your request on:

3. Responses to the green paper should be sent by 31 March 2000 to:

Will Niblett

Department of Health

Wellington House

133 - 155 Waterloo Road

London SE1 8UG

4. Also published today is the report of the expert committee which ministers established to advise them on the shape of future legislation. Many of the key recommendations from the committee are taken up in the green paper. The chair of the expert committee, Genevra Richardson, Professor of Law at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London University said that she was pleased that her report had been published in full.

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