LAST week the Health Select Committee published its review of the Mental Health Act 2007 . We found a link between the number of people being detained under the Act and the bed occupancy rate in their local unit.
While there may be many reasons contributing to this, it is important to make sure that it is not because people are becoming so unwell waiting for a bed that they need to be detained or that psychiatrists are having to use their powers to detain under the Act in order to find a bed for someone who cannot be found one as a voluntary patient.
To detain someone who does not need it is a violation of their civil rights.
The other issue raised was the use of police powers under Section 136 to take someone who they believe has a mental disorder and a risk to themselves or others, from a public place to a place of safety.
Only around one in five people detained in this way are admitted to hospital and the police are often having to use these powers because they cannot access help from mental health teams in the community.
This is not good for those affected and wastes a great deal of police time, especially if the police end up having to use a police station as a place of safety.
Police stations are not the right place for those who are mentally ill.
If the promise of 'parity of esteem' for mental illness is to have any real meaning then we must make sure that those who are the most unwell can be cared for at the right time, in the right place and try to reduce the need to use legal powers to detain people against their will.
Another issue is that of access to Independent Mental Health Advocates for people detained against their will. The committee felt that this should be available to all in-patients as we heard evidence that many voluntary patients were de-facto detained because they were being told that they would be sectioned if they tried to discharge themselves. In other words they were detained but without access to protections such as the right to appeal to a tribunal or the right to an advocate. Locally there is an effort to provide such a service to all in-patients and I am interested to hear in confidence from constituents of their own experience if they have needed to be admitted.
I am keen to support cycling locally and was part of the Parliamentary Cycling Inquiry earlier this year.
As such, I was delighted with the announcement last week about the biggest ever single cash injection into cycling projects around the country.
Locally the Department for Transport will contribute £4.372m for some major improvements to cycle ways across Dartmoor.
This funding is aimed at ensuring that cycling is accessible for all and I am glad that the focus of this scheme is new family-friendly multi use routes. Many parents worry about teaching children to cycle on roads with traffic but welcome the chance to get out to safe off-road routes in nearby countryside.
For Torbay the Department of Transport's promise to cut the red tape and restrictions around speed limit changes will make it easier to create a network of low speed back roads which improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists alike.
On a separate note but still on the topic of cycling it is fantastic news that the Tour of Britain returns to Devon on September 20 with a spectacular finish on Haytor.
You can find out more information about the tour and where to go to watch some of our famous athletes whoosh past at www.devontourofbritain.co.uk
My next surgeries are both at the Totnes Conservative Club, they are both on Thursday, August 29, from 10.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 4.30 pm.
On Friday, August 30, I am holding a surgery with the Councillors for the Blatchcombe Ward, Cllr Jeanette Richards, Cllr John Thomas and Cllr David Thomas at the Foxhole Community Centre between 11.30am and 1pm. I will then be out and about inBlatchcombe with the councillors and look forward to speaking with some of you.
To book a surgery appointment please contact Nina Smith on 01803 868378 or at email@example.com