Mental health act reform - Emerging challenges

David Pilgrim and David Hewitt discuss the practical and legal implications of the proposed ‘clinical supervisor’ role.
SOME readers of The Psychologist, or their friends or relatives, will have psychiatric treatment or admission imposed on them at some time in their lives. With their professional hat on, psychologists are soon likely to be offered a lead role in this coercive process. Are we ready to accept it? Do we want to? Under current legislation the notion of a ‘responsible medical officer’ (RMO) for detained patients only gives a backroom role for psychologists, as risk assessors, therapists or occasional expert witnesses for mental health review tribunals (which consider patient discharge appeals). However, the government’s White Paper on the reform of the 1983 Mental Health Act (Department of Health & Home Office, 2000) replaces the notion of RMO with a new one of ‘clinical supervisor’. The latter role could be taken up by a consultant psychologist (not just a medical practitioner) under the proposed new legal arrangements for England and Wales.

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