Previous Section Index Home Page

In deciding whether a person has appropriate experience and training to overcome the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Broxbourne, the person or organisation
12 Jan 2009 : Column 114
appointing the advocate should particularly consider whether they have previous experience of working in advocacy, particularly mental health advocacy, or of working with people with mental health needs and whether they have successfully completed an advocacy qualification, such as the one I described a few moments ago.

The hon. Member for Broxbourne and others raised concerns about the diversity of the groups that will need to use independent advocacy. I certainly recognise, and the guidance clearly spells it out, that the design of local mental health advocacy services can impact on access to the service by those qualified to receive it who have very different needs. Accordingly, regulations require commissioners in making arrangements for these services to have regard to the diverse circumstances and needs, including—and, I have to say, not limited to—the ethnic, cultural and demographic needs of qualifying patients.

The commissioning guidance that I referred to earlier offers advice to PCTs on how their independent mental health advocacy services might best meet the diverse needs of patients. That specific question about diversity is also discussed in the training module. We will need to monitor the legislation carefully, and the hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that we need to monitor matters carefully. We know that in some circumstances, people from some black and minority ethnic groups have been more likely to be subject to compulsion in their care. The reasons for this are complex and, as he knows, not fully understood. That is why we have put in place and have been funding “Delivering Race Equality”, which is a comprehensive action plan to help tackle the problems that BME communities can experience in mental health services. I am pleased to say that it is generating an unprecedented amount of work and research on how services can be improved, but there clearly is more that we need to be doing.

To sum up—I have taken more time than I would normally take—mental health is at an important crossroads. As the national service framework draws to an end, we can look back on 10 years of rising investment, capacity and innovation, but we need to look forward to an even brighter future for mental health services. The “New Horizons” programme, led by my Department, will help us to chart a new way forward and a new vision for mental health, building on the old framework and incorporating good examples from other parts of the world. I am clear that that new way forward means putting patients first in everything that we do. Frankly, investment in mental health services will count for nothing unless it protects the patient and improves their experience of care.

That has to be our singular purpose, and advocacy can really help us to deliver on that promise. We need to unlock the full benefits of the progress that we have made in the past decade for patients, which is why implementing this new duty is a huge priority for me and the Department. It is why we have taken such pains to prepare the ground thoroughly, and why I am confident that the new measures will, from April, make a real and lasting difference to people’s lives—something that I know that I and other Members of the House desperately want to see.

Question put and agreed to.

9.17 pm

House adjourned .

    Index Home Page