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Reform of the Mental Health Act 1983 (England and Wales)

In response to the publication of the draft Mental Health Bill in June 2002, the College and the Law Society issued a joint statement describing the legislative proposals as fundamentally flawed in principle and practical reality.

In July 2002, Dr Mike Shooter, President, and Dr Tony Zigmond, College lead on the Mental Health Bill, wrote to College members to inform them of the College's reaction to the Bill, considered ethically unacceptable and practically unworkable. A similar letter was sent to Chief Executives and Medical Directors of Trusts, detailing the College's objections and urging them to respond to the Department of Health.

A seminar was hosted by the College in August, attended by representatives from a wide range of mental health organisations and professions including lawyers, nurses, service users, psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, carers, service providers and charities.

The College submitted its formal response to the draft Bill in September 2002, and since that time has participated in stakeholder ‘ negotiations’ with the Department of Health, and has joined the Mental Health Alliance.

Mental Health (Scotland) Draft Bill

A submission was made by the Scottish Division.

A Race Equality Statement of Intent (‘RESI’) and Race Equality Scheme were endorsed by Council in 2002 and published on the College's website.

A Detailed Race Equality Scheme Action Plan was endorsed by Council in June 2003, and is being taken forward by the Special Committee on Ethnic Issues. This will ensure that the RESI is turned into a series of effective work programmes.

The Action Plan combines the requirements resulting from the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 where the College is listed as a public authority, with the recommendations contained in the Council Report CR92 ‘Report of the Ethnic Issues Project Group’.

Key points:

  1. Ensuring College policy is non-discriminatory and promotes racial equality

  2. Drafting racial harassment policy for College members

  3. Ensuring that core training, and education of members and trainees, includes capability in race and culture issues

  4. Ensuring that Black and minority ethnic members and associates (including trainees) have access to all functions of the College

  5. Work to improve services for Black and minority ethnic service users

  6. Improve consultation with Black and minority ethnic service users

  7. Promote awareness of potential for discrimination in mental health legislation

  8. Ensure that research takes account of race and culture

  9. Carry out specific employment duties as employer of College staff

  10. Consult on Action Plan

  11. Monitor results and publish in Annual Review and website.

International Fellowship Scheme

This is an ongoing recruitment initiative for the next 3 years. The College is working closely with the Department of Health on this, and has found the Scheme a major help in recruitment.

Alleged political abuse of psychiatry in China

In August 2002, the College called upon the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) General Assembly in Yokohama to arrange a fact-finding visit to China to investigate allegations of political misuse of psychiatry.

A memorandum was recently received from the WPA addressing a public appeal to Mrs Wu Yi, the new Minister for Health and Vice President of the People's Republic of China, to authorise a visit by a WPA task force. While this memorandum fulfils the College's call that the WPA should make such a request, it does not address the question of what further action would be taken should permission not be given.

Clinical guidelines developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health on the treatment and management of schizophrenia in primary and secondary care were published by NICE this year - NICE's first treatment guideline.

A Scoping Group on the College's Constitution was set up under Professor Robin McCreadie's chairmanship to consider the implications for the College of political devolution, following consultation with Divisions. In June 2002, Council endorsed proposals aimed at strengthening the identity of the Irish Division as it relates to the Government in Dublin - agreeing to adopt the title ‘The Irish College of Psychiatrists’ as the business name of the Royal College of Psychiatrists when operating in Ireland. This year, Council has agreed that the current Irish Division should be replaced by two separate Divisions - a Northern Ireland Division, and an Irish Division (which retains its title in the Regulations, but will relate solely to Ireland, excluding Northern Ireland). The two Divisions will meet regularly, to discuss matters of mutual interest, in the form of an ‘ All-Ireland Institute of Psychiatry’.

Other constitutional changes have been proposed by the Scoping Group and endorsed by Council, and are set out in the explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposed Bye-law revisions. Further changes will be considered by the Scoping Group at its next meeting in September, and a report submitted to Council, with a view of putting forward further Bye-Law amendments to the AGM in 2004.

A Scoping Group on supporting members and developing complaints procedures was established under Professor John Gunn's chairmanship, and a third Scoping Group - on Roles and Values - is being chaired by Professor Richard Williams.

Human rights and the treatment of restricted patients - appeal to the House of Lords

The College was invited to apply to be joined as a party to a set of legal proceedings in the House of Lords focusing on the issue of whether a psychiatrist was a ‘discrete public authority’ and was bound by the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1983, i.e. whether psychiatrists could be obliged to treat patients as required by a mental health review tribunal to allow discharge to take place, or whether they could legitimately refuse to treat restricted patients. Council has agreed that the College should apply.

Special Interest Groups

The following new Groups were endorsed in principle this year:

  1. Social Science and Psychiatry

  2. Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Council has agreed that the History of Psychiatry Special Interest Group should be discontinued, as it is no longer active.

A review of SIGs is to be undertaken by Registrar and Treasurer for consideration by Council.