This article discusses the findings of an exploratory study involving semi-structured interviews with a sample of Mental Health Act (MHA) Commissioners. MHA Commissioners are employed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England to monitor patients who are deprived of their liberty under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007). The study was designed to examine the impact of the transfer of responsibility of mental health detention monitoring in April 2009 from the Mental Health Act Commission to the CQC. The interviews were devised around the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) framework, which provides a useful benchmark for effective monitoring of deprivations of liberty to national inspection bodies (known as National Preventive Mechanisms), such as the CQC. Article 18 of the OPCAT advises a regular system of preventive visits by independent expert monitors, as well focussing on the promotion and protection of human rights. There is paucity of data on the work of MHA Commissioners in England to date and the author was unable to locate any previous studies on the subject. This study is timely and important as the CQC has been heavily criticised following the abuses uncovered at Winterbourne View care home and in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry. Consequently, in 2012, the CQC undertook a major strategic review. The findings of this study suggest that, whilst there is some evidence of compliance, the CQC still has some way to go to effectively fulfil its monitoring duties in line with the provisions of the OPCAT.
- LAW Centre for Health Law and Society