Politics Sector News — 05 November 2014

A senior public servant has raised concerns about the new Mental Health Act, saying some requirements are causing distress and anxiety for people.

Under the old regime, an involuntary patient could be held for 28 days without review.

The new Mental Health Act, introduced in February, brought in changes for the Mental Health Tribunal and reduced the detention time to 10 days, with reviews in 30 and 90 days.

In the Guardianship and Administration Board’s annual report, president Anita Smith said some patients are now having to appear before the tribunal up to eight times, and it was causing recurring distress and anxiety.

She said under the old regime practitioners complained that attendance at two hearings was administratively burdensome and caused anxiety for their patients

She said under the new regime patients may have to attend up to eight hearings.SONY DSC

“This can generate enormous amounts of paperwork … and cause recurring distress and anxiety to acutely unwell patients,” she said.

Mental Health Tribunal president Yvonne Chaperon said people were not forced to appear.

“If they’re so acutely unwell then they’re not made to come to these tribunal hearings,” she said.

Darren Carr from the Mental Health Council said the new act, which commenced in February this year, provided better patient monitoring.

Mr Carr said the new regime took power away from doctors and gave it to an independent body.

“This is a system that gives more powers and more rights to patients,” he said.

“We fully expected that under the new Mental Health Act there would be more appearances at the tribunal and this is actually a welcome thing.”

He said no-one can be forced to appear.

The Attorney-General, Vanessa Goodwin, who oversees the tribunal, agreed the burden was too onerous and said it was being looked at by the Justice and Health departments.

“I am also concerned about it being more onerous for patients, and I think this has been an unintended consequence of the new Mental Health Act,” she said.

“[We’re] certainly looking at potential amendments to address these concerns that have been raised around the more onerous requirements for patients and that process is well under way in terms of identifying those potential amendments.”

This article first appeared on ‘Yahoo!7 News’ on 4 November 2014.

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