Short Life Mental Health Legislation Commencement Consideration Group minutes: February 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 10 February 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Claire Lamza, MWC
  • Laura Dunlop, Mental Health Tribunal Scotland 
  • Bob Leslie, Social Work Scotland
  • John Crichton, Royal College of Psychiatrists


  • Martin McKenna, SCTS
  • Hugh McAloon, SG 
  • Arun Chopra, MWC


  • Diane Strachan (Chair)
  • Ruth Wilson

Items and actions

Consideration of evidence for commencement of temporary amendments within the UK Coronavirus Act 2020

The Chair opened the meeting and turned to item one on the agenda, the consideration of evidence and intelligence on how the mental health system is operating under current circumstances.

There was a general discussion regarding the trend in activity and the following points were noted in discussion:

  • the Mental Health Tribunal reported that overall they are managing to meet all deadlines but that they are also working at full capacity. The most recent figures show that they are averaging 99 applications per week which has remained pretty stable over the recent weeks
  • the Mental Welfare Commission report that in line with MHTS, their data demonstrates that the number of orders covering EDC, STDC and CTO remain pretty stable. However they did report that there had been a small increase in the number of back to back orders but in line with its usual practice the MWC are following up with practitioners to ascertain the reasons behind this. They have placed their visiting programme on hold however once the vaccination programme moves forward then they’ll be reinstated. There are no issues to report regarding the use of 2nd opinion Dr’s and overall the Act is operating as intended
  • Social Work Scotland have reported that there is no change from their views last month and overall the landscape remains challenging and there is potential for more pressure on the service if staff absence numbers increase due to COVID. However they also report that MHO’s have been prioritised for vaccinations which should help mitigate absence figures going forward
  • the Royal College of Psychiatrists were clear that the situation remains difficult but they are managing and has been helped by the ability to derive workarounds in general for a variety of practices has been invaluable

The Group overall noted that the pandemic remains very demanding however the current levels of operation of the AWI and Mental Health Acts merits a continued cautious approach in respect of the emergency provisions.  They therefore recommend that those provisions contained within Schedule 9 of the UK Act continue to be retained, but not commenced.

Update on reporting of coronavirus legislation

The Group were advised that 5th report concerning both Scottish Coronavirus Acts was to be published on 11 February. Although both Scottish Acts are due to sunset on 31 March, they can be extended until 30 September 2021 and Ministers will be invited to consider whether an extension beyond 31 March, is necessary.  The UK Coronavirus Act however operates on a different reporting timeline therefore the  provisions contained within Section 10, Schedule 9 of the UK Act are not due to expire until 30 September.

Remote medical examinations

The Group were made aware that there had been a UKG legal challenge concerning the validity of remote assessments and Hospital trusts in England have been told to stop using virtual assessments to section people under the Mental Health Act after a judge ruled them unlawful.  Scottish legislation is not affected by this ruling.

The next meeting will take place on 10 March 2021.

Mental Health and Incapacity Law Unit
February 2021 

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