DoH to drop two-doctor rule for mental health sections

A single doctor could be able to section a mentally ill patient under proposed temporary changes to the Mental Health Act set out in a DoH consultation paper.

The measures, revealed at a DoH briefing last week, are being explored as a way to deal with severe staff absences in the event of a more serious second wave of swine flu. Under current rules, two doctors are required to make the decision. The change is for England only.

Other temporary measures that may be considered include flexibility in timing reviews under the Mental Health Act and a broader definition of professionals who are approved to work under the Mental Health Act.

The consultation will run until 7 October.

Also at the briefing, England's director for flu resilience Ian Dalton said that the NHS has the ability to double critical care capacity in the event of a significant surge in swine flu cases.

In addition to this, hospitals are exploring other ways to increase capacity, such as temporary postponement of some planned surgery and appointments.

Both Scotland and Wales announced that they too would be able to double their critical care bed capacity if needed.

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