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Flu pandemic could see Mental Health Act changes

10th September 2009

Mental health legislation could be changed to ensure treatment for mental health patients in the case of a flu pandemic.

The Department of Health (DoH) has published a new consultation to get feedback over whether changes to the Mental Health Act 1983 would be necessary.

Mental health patients can be detained in hospital under the act in cases where it is necessary and justified, but details specific requirements for this to be possible.

The changes would make it possible for aspects of the act to be carried out in the case of severe staff absences during pandemic flu.

National director of mental health services Louis Appleby explained that the proposed changes would add to the 'strong contingency plans' already in place to cope with mental health demands during a pandemic.

She said: 'We are determined to make sure we have a sensible, proportionate approach that ensures that vulnerable mental health patients continue to get the treatment they need, when they need it, even in the event of staff absences.

'It is only sensible to be prepared for every eventuality.'

The publication of the consultation as the DoH unveils a new NHS critical care strategy, intended to increase capacity if necessary during a pandemic.

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