14 November 2001

S1M-2438 Mental Health Law

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 14 November 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Mental Health Law

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2438, in the name of Susan Deacon, on renewing mental health law, together with an amendment to that motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Presiding Officer, thank you for chopping off the last page of my speech.

I join the prevailing consensus in the chamber and welcome the Millan report and the Executive's response to it. I cannot bring the kind of experience that Margaret Jamieson brought as a psychiatric nurse when she made her speech, but I have a bit of family history. My mother chaired the local mental health committee in Cupar in Fife for between 15 and 18 years. My father was a general practitioner and a physician in the local psychiatric hospital. According to my father's express wishes, the very house in which I was brought up was sold to the health board in Fife and is now a psychiatric day unit. My best pal's father was the medical superintendent at the local psychiatric hospital, and by some strange coincidence, when I met my future wife at university, her father was a psychiatric nurse at Craig Dunain, as was her sister.

For my part, as a bored school student at the age of 17, I left school early to work in the local psychiatric hospital as a nurse in one of the last locked wards. We had in that ward schizophrenics; people suffering from manic depression, general paralysis of the insane from alcohol abuse, and tertiary syphilis with GPI; an accident victim who was unable to communicate with anyone; and Willie. I will protect his identity by describing him simply as Willie. I will come back to him in a minute.

My experience of that ward underpinned many of my attitudes to social issues subsequently. We had 32 beds. We were working 108 hours each fortnight, and we were paid £6 10/- a week, less stoppages. On one particular occasion, I remember working the double shifts that we worked on Saturday and Sunday—a full weekend—with just two nurses, one of whom was me with the barest of bare experience; the other had 18 months' experience. We were the medical ward in the psychiatric hospital, and that weekend we had three deaths. It was not an unusual occurrence.

The key point that struck me about being in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s was the social isolation of the people in the ward. During the period of just under a year when I worked there, we had one single visit, from relatives of a patient who was seriously ill and expected to die. It is on that basis that I return to Willie. Willie was what in some ways we could only describe as our trusty. He went for our cigarettes. He helped us to clean the ward. He sometimes made our tea. He did not have a mental illness, nor a personality disorder. He certainly had a learning difficulty, and perhaps a learning disability.

The continued inclusion of learning disability in the proposed legislation causes me the most concern. I recognise the difficulty in taking that term out but, in her consideration of the proposed bill, I urge the minister to consider that issue. It is a social issue at least as much as a psychiatric issue.

Along with Robin Harper, I feel that the role of advocacy is of great importance, particularly in the area of learning disability. As Richard Simpson mentioned in his well-informed and thoughtful contribution, reciprocity is one of the jewels in the crown of the proposed legislation.

In conclusion, let us give the bill any name we like, but let us include the word "care" because that is what the bill is about.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP