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Empowerment and Involvement
There’s a new Code of Practice that has just been published to accompany the Mental Health Act in England and Wales. I wrote about some of the impending changes last September in an article called Cracking the Code. Well now the new Code is here, though it doesn’t come into operation until April. The Code is statutory guidance for people concerned with the day to day operation of the Act, but what about the rest of us in the field of offering health and social care – yes you should be aware of it too. That’s what the introduction to the Guide says. This Guide is primarily about people subject to the Mental Health Act 1983. That can include people detained in hospital, or people in community settings subject to some other legal framework such as Supervised Community Treatment or Guardianship. However, I think the scope of the new Guide is even wider than that. With alternative legislation such as the Mental Capacity Act around, staff need to be aware of all the legal frameworks they may be relying on for their protection, or the protection of the people they are caring for.
Alert to abuse
One of the chapters highlighted in the new Code is alerting authorities to potential abuse, and any misuse of the Code. The introduction to the Code points to the terrible events at Winterbourne View, how staff need to be aware of vulnerable adults being exposed to abuse and points the reader to chapter four for further guidance to prevent it happening or deal with it if it does.
Involving users and carers
Much of chapter four is about supporting service users and their carers in dealing properly with complaints and concerns. Empowerment and involvement is one of the new set of Guiding Principles that should govern the operation of mental health law. This chapter acknowledges how difficult service users might find it to raise complaints. There are a number of reasons why they might not:
- Residents and their families might fear a backlash from home or hospital staff if they make a complaint. They may fear getting a worse service if they complain.
- They might worry if they make a complaint it won’t be taken seriously, and staff will just say it’s down to their mental health problem.
- They may not know who and how to approach.
So the chapter gives some pointers:
- The importance of a care home having an accessible complaints procedure.
- Ensure there is support for the person who might wish to make a compliant or raise a concern, that might include involving a family member or an independent advocate.
- Care homes should be proactive in raising awareness amongst service users if they have any concerns.
So be prepared for April by downloading a copy of the new Guide here.
David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor