UK mental health problems need more than ‘quick fix’ claims legal expert

A leading mental health lawyer claims the NHS is failing patients by treating those with mental health problems as if they need first aid.

Max Duddles of QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank said an over reliance on “super-drugs”, some of which have severe side effects, was preventing many people from recovering from their illnesses and remaining in remission.

“We have an alarming situation where it is the generally accepted practice to hand out these drugs to patients as a matter of course, without investigating the causes of their illnesses or considering whether alternative treatments might be more appropriate and less intrusive,” he said. “Some common side effects of these medications are considerable weight gain, bad dreams, slurred speech and drooling” he added.

“Sadly, in many mental health wards, where there are too few resources and too great a demand for beds, there is an attitude akin to triage, where some Doctors are effectively prescribing a sticking plaster in the shape of these, often expensive, drugs to cover a wound and then having to discharge the patient as quickly as possible, so that they can treat someone else,” he said. “The sticking plaster holds for a while but inevitably the patient returns. Due to the relatively short periods of time many patients stay in hospital, they are unable to gain insight into their illness and they do not have the capability to cope with their, often complex, problems. Put simply, there is too much focus on a quick fix rather than finding a proper longer-term course of treatment”.

Mr Duddles, who is a member of the Law Society’s specialist mental health panel, said that patients are being put under considerable pressure by medics to take these drugs, with some being held down and injected if they refuse to do so.

“Many of the powers to detain and treat patients in this way are enshrined within the Mental Health Act 1983. With around a quarter of the population suffering from a condition of this sort at some point in their life, I believe that the time has come for there to be a wide ranging public debate about the rights and wrongs of a system which is, for the large part, thirty years old.” he added.

Mr Duddles, whose firm QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank recently won a Government contract to provide Legal Aid for mental health cases across the East Midlands, added that many thousands of people are sectioned under the Mental Health Act each year, and it is necessary for everyone to know their rights.

“The public need educating around an area of law which is incredibly complex,” he said. “There are many people out there popping pills and with a concerted effort by the bodies involved they could be leading much fuller lives and be of more benefit to society.”

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