The 1959 Mental Health Act has provided the legal framework for psychiatric practice in the UK for the past two decades. The Mental Health (Amendment) Bill (DHSS, 1981) currently before Parliament proposes to update the Act by improving the safeguards for detained patients, clarifying the position of staff looking after them, and by the removal of uncertainties in the law. The Bill incorporates changes relating to the compulsory care of Mentally Disordered patients in the community whereby a person may be accepted into Guardianship on the grounds that he or she is suffering from a Mental Disorder. Once accepted into Guardianship, the person or body named as Guardian has the power to exercise control over the person as if he or they were the father of the patient, and the patient was under 14 years of age.
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