Protecting patients' rights: future regulation and monitoring of the Mental Health Act

Publication Date01 Dec 2005
AuthorKamlesh Patel
SubjectHealth & social care,Sociology
32 © Pavilion Publishing (Brighton) Limited The Journal of Adult Protection Volume 7 Issue 4 • December 2005
Present government policy on the future inspection and
monitoring of the operation of the Mental Health Act is to
merge the monitoring functions of the Mental Health Act
Commission (MHAC) into the Healthcare Commission and
abolish the MHAC in April 2007, subject to passage of the
draft Mental Health Bill through Parliament (DH, 2004a).
Although not stated expressly in these terms it appears that
the underlying assumption behind this decision is that the two
Commissions, the MHAC and the Healthcare Commission,
have a shared constituency – patients in healthcare services;
and that in line with the overall policy of streamlined
regulation they should therefore be merged, resulting in a
more efficient and effective service delivering greater value for
money and decreasing the burdens placed upon healthcare
Whilst it is a government’s prerogative to determine the
scope and arrangements for regulation, monitoring and
review of public services, it is essential that such decisions
are informed by a robust impact assessment of the
proposals, especially the way that the changes may affect the
lives of vulnerable people subject to the requirements of the
Mental Health Act. If the underlying assumptions are not
robust the government might unintentionally remove an
essential element of the safeguards against abuses of human
rights and discrimination at the very moment when the
state is seeking to extend rather than reduce its powers of
Protecting patients’ rights:
future regulation and
monitoring of the
Health Act
*Kamlesh Patel OBE
Chair,Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC);
Professor and Head of the Centre for Ethnicity
and Health, University of Central Lancashire
key words
patients’ rights
vulnerable adults
Mental Health Act
The draft Mental Health Bill
2004 proposes transfer of the main
monitoring functions of the Mental
Health Act Commission (MHAC) to
the Healthcare Commission (or in
practice whatever body succeeds
the Healthcare Commission) with
the abolition of the MHAC on
implementation of the Bill when
enacted. This paper describes the
present role and remit of the Mental
Health Act Commission, outlines the
government’s strategy on inspection
and regulation and identifies the
importance of protecting the rights
of vulnerable adults and children
with mental disorders.The reasons
for retaining independent scrutiny
and inspection of mental health
services are explored and structures
and mechanisms that might assist in
achieving an effective regulatory
environment are proposed.
*This paper is written in a personal capacity. Nothing in the article should be taken
necessarily as Mental Health Act Commission or Department of Health policy unless
explicitly stated as such.

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