On Thursday 15 July, SIAA hosted a roundtable for members in partnership with Professor Jill Stavert and Aimee McDonald from The Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland Evaluation Project team. The project is an independent comprehensive evaluation of the Mental Health Tribunal, with the report which results from the project aiming to provide information on how the Tribunal processes are experienced by patients, named persons, health and social care practitioners and Tribunal panel members. It will identify where the experience is good but also where it may need to be improved. The final project report will be publicly available and will be sent to, amongst others, the Tribunal, Scottish Government and Scottish Mental Health Law Review.
Support the project
At the roundtable, Aimee and Jill emphasised how important it was for people who have experience attended a Mental Health Tribunal to have their experiences included in the project. There has been difficulty in recruiting participants up to this point, in part due to the pandemic. The project team are very happy to come along to speak to your organisations individually about the project or discuss how any barriers to partipation can be removed for advocacy partners. Anything that you can do within your organisations to help share this project with advocacy partners, or support interested people to take part, would be really appreacited. For anyone interested in the study, or any questions, please contact CMHCL@napier.ac.uk tel 01314554553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more background, please find the slides that Aimee and Jill shared during the session below, these can be shared within your organisations. The audio can be played by clicking the speaker icon in the bottom right hand corner of each slide.
Gradual return to in-person Tribunals
Some members will be aware that the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland have recently released information about a gradual return to in-person Tribunal hearings. We’ve shared more detailed information about this from Laura Dunlop QC (MHTS President) below, or head over to the news feed of the MHTS website.
MHTS return to in-person Tribunals
With effect from 26 July 2021, we intend to begin scheduling in-person hearings at three hospital venues, in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. These are Carseview, Gartnavel and the Royal Edinburgh. In each case, assessments have been conducted of the capacity of the room and of all other measures necessary to maximise COVID safety. Practical steps indicated by these assessments have been taken and we are satisfied that we can offer in-person hearings in these venues in a safe manner.
Holding almost all hearings as telephone conferences over the past 15 months has taught us that some service users attending hearings prefer to participate by telephone. We have also undertaken some hearings by video-conference (using the WebEx platform). We propose to continue to offer telephone hearings as an alternative, and are introducing a form on which a patient’s preference can be shown. We ask that this form is completed (only) for all applications where the patient is currently in one of the three venues listed above, and that completion is the responsibility of whoever is lodging the application. In principle, WebEx is another alternative form of hearing, although arranging such a hearing is more complex logistically and may sometimes be difficult to achieve within the short timescales we require to meet. There is space on the form for noting details of features which may make a WebEx hearing more suitable for an individual patient.
Before the pandemic, the facility of attending an in-person hearing by telephone was regularly adopted by professionals, and we expect this will continue. In a context where numbers of people in rooms will be of importance, it would be appreciated if intention to attend in person or by phone was intimated promptly, and adhered to if possible. Should an in-person hearing be arranged on the basis that the patient may want to attend in person, yet on the day they feel that they would prefer to attend by phone, we will also be able to offer this way of taking part. For all hearings where the patient is participating by phone, we do ask that they have someone with them, as would be the case for an in-person hearing. And we do need to start on time!
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the flexibility shown during the pandemic. We hope that the return to venues in person will afford to some service users a more acceptable way of participating in hearings about compulsory measures of care and treatment. We also hope that progress will be made in other venues in the coming months. In so saying, may I also reiterate that applications with correct and complete information (from the spelling of a name to the dates of forthcoming leave/contact details for additional attendees) maximise the chances of setting a date and time which suits attendees and which is properly intimated to them. As well as noting availability – or unavailability – it may also assist to indicate that you are expecting a hearing for another service user to be scheduled at around the same time, since it is not always clear to us that there is potential for double-booking. This is more easily dealt with by prevention than rearrangement.
With thanks for all your support and practical assistance, both over the last 16 months and in the months to come.
President, Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland