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Keeping Up With the Law
Richard Jones has just brought out the latest edition of his Mental Health Act Manual – widely considered as ‘the Bible’ for mental health professionals and lawyers, but unlike the Holy Bible there’s a new updated edition each year. In fact we’re now on the sixteenth edition. What Jones provides is the full text of the Mental Health Act with comprehensive notes and commentary on the wording of the Act, together with case law interpretations of parts of the Act following judgements in court. When mental health workers are discussing complex issues arising from the law you’ll often hear them say ‘what does Jones say?’ Obviously he’s not the only mental health law commentator around, but his manuals are must-haves for workers in the field. (Incidentally he also publishes a Mental Capacity Act manual.) It should be said that the manuals take some getting used to if you are trying to find the answers to thorny mental health law matters and would not be recommended as easy read guides. (I should also mention that if you are looking for a guide to Scottish mental health and mental incapacity law, Mental Health, Incapacity and the Law in Scotland by Hilary Patrick is highly regarded.)
One of the most interesting things about getting hold of a new edition of Richard Jones’ Mental Health Act manual is the foreword that Jones writes. In the past he’s written about the complexity of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and how difficult it is for professionals to get their head around whether it is more appropriate to use the Mental Health Act or the Mental Capacity Act. This year he has written about inspections at care homes and hospitals and the role of the Care Quality Commission. He comments on the response to the Winterbourne View inquiry where a number of learning disabled people had been verbally and physically abused. He notes that the focus on documentation during inspections did not uncover the abuse that was going on and makes reference to the Serious Case review report commissioned by the South Gloucestershire Adults Safeguarding Board. There is a very powerful statement in this report which says ‘compliance with standards neither detects the abuse of restraints nor scrutinizes the circumstances in which restraint occurs.’ Jones argues that an inspection visit should find out where the main pressure points are (as he calls them) such as a ward for people with challenging behaviour, and just observe what is going on. If the inspector was concerned about what they observed, then that would be the time to look at the hospital or homes’ policy and whether the problem was with the policy or how it was being implemented. It is interesting to note that at the time of writing this the CQC are announcing a consultation into ways in which they inspect the quality of care homes.
Reference: Richard Jones Mental Health Act Manual 16th Edition Sweet and Maxwell London 2013