People detained in hospital against their will face the removal of rights to a second medical opinion under 'cost-cutting' proposals quietly being pushed through, with the opportunity to protest ending today.

The Tribunal Procedure Committee, an opaque body appointed by the Ministry of Justice working independently from the Mental Health Act review team and their ongoing work, are championing two proposals: 

  • Removing the right to a second psychiatric evaluation by a medically trained professional.
  • Allowing tribunals to take decisions without oral hearings when detentions are up for renewal.

The Mental Health Act is the only legislation where people can be institutionally detained for care and treatment without the order of a court. People with mental health needs place significant value on the right to a second medial opinion.

The first proposal is "fundamentally incompatible with the Tribunal Procedure Committee’s requirements to ensure that justice is done", argue Rethink Mental Illness.

Rethink have obtained private correspondence relating to the rationale taken for the proposals under Freedom of Information requests.

"It shows that, while their consultation paper claims a variety of reasons they want to remove these safeguards, one of the primary motivations appears in fact to be cost," say the charity.

"We are extremely concerned that proposal two would result in a system by which tribunals wave through the renewals of detention for people who lack capacity and cannot therefore request an oral hearing."

"An oral hearing allows for far greater safeguards for the rights and needs of a service user than does a paper hearing, since clinicians must explain the course of treatment and their clinical assessment, and expect to be cross-examined by the tribunal."

"It also allows an opportunity for advocates to make a case based on the best interests of a service user."

MHT has approached the Tribunal Procedure Committee for comment.