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Debate shows Scepticism


Mental Health White Paper


The Maudsley Debate in July 2001 discussed the motion, "This house looks forward to the implementation of the Government White Paper on Mental Health". In a preliminary vote, just 2% of the audience supported this, with 61% opposed and 37% undecided.

Prof Tony Maden of Imperial College opened for the motion, arguing the White Paper ensured that 'difficult' patients would receive treatment rather than punishment, and that the government's interest in public protection was valid.

Paul Bowen, a barrister, opposed this, arguing the proposals severely constrained liberty, expanded the class of people subject to coercion, and breached the Human Rights Act.

Next Dr Chris Burford, a consultant at St Ann's Hospital, supported the motion. He spoke of changes in psychiatry and the problems of 'revolving door' admissions; he suggested the White Paper gave a framework for treating vulnerable people who otherwise missed or evaded treatment.

Finally, Dr Andrew Johns, a psychiatrist at the Maudsley NHS Trust, concluded by saying the White Paper coerced both patients and psychiatrists. He referred to the estimate that 5000 patients would need to be detained in order to prevent a single homicide by a person with a mental disorder.

Afterwards the audience was able to vote on the motion again. Still only 1.5% supported the White Paper. However the number of those opposed had increased to 90%! Those undecided had dropped to a mere 8.5%.


Based on notes from the Institute of Psychiatry website