Lobby briefing: Andy Bell, chair of the Mental Health Alliance

Bell discussed the implications of the Mental Health Bill

Is the Mental Health Bill still "fundamentally flawed", as you've previously said?

Yes. Peers passed just one amendment during the committee stage, to prevent the sectioning of people capable of making decisions. That's welcome, but there's a long way to go before this legislation's fit for the 21st century, and to make sure compulsory treatment occurs only when it is based on evidence of health benefits.

So has the alliance's lobbying been unsuccessful?

The Government has listened to our arguments over the past eight years, in that it ditched two widely condemned mental health bills. It needs to come up with proposals on which there can be consensus.

How hopeful are you that there will be more changes?

We're optimistic, given the 73 amendments tabled in the Lords committee - astonishing for such a short bill - that there will be improvements during the Lords report stage next week, or in the Commons. Politicians in both houses have given us support, despite the fact that it's not an easy issue to champion.

What's your biggest campaign challenge?

Getting our message out in the media. There's an obsession with violence and danger, putting pressure on the Government to be seen to be doing something about the risk posed by people with severe mental health problems.

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