Friday, 19 June 2015

Fiona Sinclair, Autism Rights: articles on the madness of Scottish mental health system and legislation @NewsnetScotland

Fiona Sinclair, of the pressure group Autism Rights, on Newsnet Scotland, in her part one post describes the struggle to make sense of changes in Scottish mental health legislation, and in part two writes about the implications of current and mental health legislation in Scotland, urging cross party support for real change.

Part one:

Autism and the madness of the Mental Health Act

Scottish Parliament
"The Scottish Parliament is currently considering a Mental Health Bill which is addressing some of the deficiencies outlined by the last major review of mental health legislation – the McManus Review – in 2009.

Whilst some of the main recommendations of this review are being addressed, there are other major issues that have been squeezed out of any consideration because of civil servants’ propensity to restrict consultations to a very limited range of policy objectives.

Yet again, even though a few organisations made representations about the inclusion of people with Learning Disabilities within the provisions of the Mental Health Act to the McManus Review and to  the previous review under the Millan Committee, the new Bill will not consider this issue at all, unless the Scottish Government agrees to Amendments to the Bill at Stage 3.

For nearly four years, my own small unfunded group, Autism Rights, has campaigned to end the inclusion of people with Learning Disabilities and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) within the provisions of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act. The Act applies to people with `mental disorders`, which incorporates mental illness, personality disorder and Learning Disability, `however caused or manifested`."

"Autism Rights’ members can attest to the inhumanity of the mental health system as regards its treatment of their autistic sons, where polypharmacy (dosing with several drugs at a time) increases the risks to health and is routinely used on people who can find themselves literally trapped for decades in this system. The fear of retribution is based on bitter experience and the knowledge of the kind of damage that can be done to a loved one’s health in a short amount of time. Parents and other carers are more often forcefully reminded of their powerlessness than of the right to respect for their knowledge of those they love."

SHRC & SPSO offices Edinburgh
"... the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has refused to undertake any kind of inquiry or investigation, although it did include some of our evidence in its National Action Plan for human rights. The tide is now turning, due to the pressure we have built up in written submissions to parliamentary and government consultations, petitioning and correspondence, talks to the Cross Party Groups on Human Rights, Learning Disability and Disability and to speaking at conferences and seminars, notably Inclusion Scotland’s `Grasping the Thistle` events. ..."

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Part two:

We should face up to the madness of the Scottish mental health system

"There are more general statistical and informational `black holes` in the Scottish mental health system which compound the failure to offer basic protections of human rights for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Learning Disabilities.

There are no published statistics on the numbers of deaths in the mental health system. There is no separate collation of data for those people who commit suicide whilst in the `care` of the mental health system. There is no collation of data on assaults or other `adverse events` that happen in the system. When the Westminster government discovered that there were 40,000 face-down restraints in the previous year within the English mental health system, it decided that action needed to be taken.

Most of the deaths in custody of people with mental health diagnoses are associated with this type of restraint: it is acknowledged to be the riskiest type of restraint. In Scotland, there is no collation of data on restraints within the mental health system, and Police Scotland were unable to give me any information on restraints, injury or deaths of people with a `mental disorder` within their custody, even though more than half of the deaths in police custody within England are of people who are subject to compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act.

The Scottish Government claims that the Scottish Patient Safety Programme – Mental Health will deal with these chronic deficits in statistical information.  This programme was initiated in 2012 and has still failed to address any of the statistical `black holes` that I have drawn attention to. In fact, the only publication to date of the numbers of people who die in the Scottish mental health system came about because of a Freedom of Information request submitted by me to the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. ..."

"Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs), howsoever flawed they are, are mandatory for deaths in the Scottish penal system, but not for deaths of patients in its mental health system. In spite of Lord Cullen’s recommendation that there ought to be FAIs for deaths of all of those subject to compulsory `treatment` under the Mental Health Act, the new Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill, which is also currently wending its way through the Scottish Parliament, does not consider this to be necessary. Both the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the EHRC agree that it would be acceptable to give the MWC the task of holding FAIs into deaths in the mental health system, even though the MWC has a direct conflict of interest, because of its role as `individual safeguard` of the rights of people subject to compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act. They would essentially be being asked to investigate their own failures. .."

"The legal system is devoid of any checks  or balances on this system: the Law Society for Scotland had to issue recommendations to its own members, because of their repeated incompetence and failures in representing patients at Mental Health Tribunals, where compulsory treatment is enforced, often after the administration of drugs. Where cases have additional complexity, as with ASD and its associated medical conditions, the way that legal aid is paid heaps injustice upon incompetence, because it does not accept that such complexity even exists. .."

"The `Scottish` media has barely reflected the grassroots initiatives here in Scotland that have either directly or incidentally revealed serious deficiencies in the overall `care` of vulnerable people. ..."

"The Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Groups on Human Rights and Mental Health have both been repeatedly asked to permit dissenting voices to give a presentation on their view of mental health legislation, but have refused that opportunity, when charities funded to the tune of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash are regularly given the opportunity to present to the Mental Health CPG and have ready access to various taxpayer-funded conferences and other events in which to `network` their own interests. ..."

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