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Bill attempts to detain innocent mental health patients

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Nurses will play a key role in detaining mentally ill people, under new laws proposed by the government.

Nurses will play a key role in detaining mentally ill people, under new laws proposed by the government.

It is trying to push through its Mental Health Bill, published today, although two previous attempts at a draft which were abandoned because they were unworkable.

The new bill would mean people who have a serious personality disorder could be detained even if they hadn't committed a crime. It would also allow supervised treatment in the community for people who had been discharged from a psychiatric hospital.

It comes after a report into the killing of Denis Finnegan (OK) in Richmond Park, in September 2004, by John Barrett, a patient at South West London and St George's Mental Health Trust in Tooting.

The report criticises the trust and the psychiatrist at the hospital, who allowed Mr Barrett an hour?s unescorted leave in the hospital grounds without assessing his condition. Mr Barrett, who had schizophrenia and had stabbed three people in 2002, absconded.

And nurses in England and Wales will be able to take on the work currently done by an approved social worker.

David Harding-Price, chair of the RCN mental health practice forum, said he would be very concerned if community psychiatric nurses had to force patients to come into hospital for treatment against their wishes. 'It totally destroys the trust relationship we have with our clients,' he said.

Peter Atkinson, vice chair of Unison's National Nursing Committee and a mental health nurse in West Sussex, said: 'It's going to be very difficult, you are going to get into all sorts of difficult areas in terms of human rights.'

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