Proposals for new mental health legislation make the case for using the ‘least restrictive alternative’ (Scottish Executive, 2001) and the ‘least restrictive environment’ (Department of Health & Home Office, 2000) as guiding principles in deciding the management and treatment of the patient. This appears to be the case made for introducing compulsory treatment in the community. The patient living in the community, while maintained on medication, rather than the hospital would appear to be defined as on the ‘least restrictive alternative’. This, however, takes only a limited approach to what is ‘restrictive’, which should be interpreted more widely, including the patient's view as well as that of clinicians and policy makers. Thus, a patient may see it as less restrictive during an acute phase to be in hospital and not on medication, than in the community but on medication. It is likely, given our knowledge of patients' attitudes to medication (Eastwood & Pugh, 1997), that many patients will prefer to be on oral medication rather than depot, which they see as less restrictive.
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