Section 6 — Visits

Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:00 pm on 15th February 2007.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 3:00 pm, 15th February 2007

Group 1 is on visits: accompaniment by a doctor. Amendment 1, in the name of Dr Jean Turner, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Dr Jean Turner Dr Jean Turner Independent

Amendment 1 seeks to ensure that when a council officer enters someone's house or place of residence—which could be anywhere, for example a nursing home or a hospital ward—to determine whether the person is an adult at risk of harm, they will be accompanied by a doctor, who, preferably, will be the person's own general practitioner, if they can be found. I have made the proposal because I realise from my own experience how traumatic it is to enter someone's home to section them or to have them removed for treatment because they are self-harming.

We must remember that the numbers of elderly people and people with special needs in the community will grow. Many elderly people who live in their own homes are terrified of being taken into a nursing home or some other form of accommodation. The issue was highlighted for me recently, when one of my constituents refused any help from NHS 24. If we had been able to send in a doctor, the situation would have been resolved quite easily. I know from past experience that doctors often enter situations that they think they will not be able to manage, but as soon as the person sees a doctor from their practice or one whom they know, the situation is defused.

Amendment 1 would also allow the medical examination that is envisaged under the bill to be undertaken in the adult's home, so it would not be necessary for them to be removed to another place.

As a former GP, I recognise that my proposal might place an additional burden on GPs, but the evidence that the Health Committee received suggested that it would not be an enormous burden. Doctors would have to make such visits on only a handful of occasions a year. I commend the amendment to Parliament.

I move amendment 1.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

Amendment 1 is similar to an amendment that was debated at stage 2. Although I recognise the good intentions behind it, I have reservations that its provisions would be inflexible, and might give rise to circumstances in which a visit could not go ahead because a GP was not available.

The intent of amendment 1 could be secured perhaps in secondary legislation, but probably in a code of practice or guidance. That would be better than cementing it into statute in a way that could lead to unforeseen undesirable situations arising.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

Although I acknowledge the value of Jean Turner's experience and recognise that it will often be the case that a GP is an appropriate person to be involved, I share Euan Robson's reservations. As he said, at stage 2 the Health Committee considered whether a doctor should be present for all visits under section 6. Amendment 1 would require a GP to attend when a visit was prompted by concerns about a person's well-being and would mean that reasonable steps would have to be taken to ensure that the GP was from the adult's practice.

Section 8 already provides that the primary person sent by the council may be a health professional and that no one other than a health professional can conduct a medical examination of an adult who may be at risk. It quite deliberately allows flexibility in the choice of who that health professional should be. On occasion, the best person will be the adult's GP or another GP who is registered at the same practice. However, in other cases the health professional with whom the adult is most familiar and who can most readily assist them will be a district nurse or mental health professional. In those circumstances, that person's presence would be more appropriate, therefore we should retain the flexibility that the bill currently provides.

On that basis, I ask Dr Turner to seek leave to withdraw amendment 1.

Photo of Dr Jean Turner Dr Jean Turner Independent

On most occasions when section 6 will be used, a medical problem will be present in the background, which could be solved quickly, kindly and sensitively by the presence of a GP. The bill is about adult support and protection and the least intervention that is required to help people. It would be a kindness for a general practitioner to be present—as I said, they should preferably be a GP whom the person knows, although I know that that might not always happen. I honestly do not think that it is too much of a burden or too difficult to find a GP. A GP has to be found when someone has to be sectioned under the mental health legislation, and it is perfectly easy to do that.

I press amendment 1.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

There will be a division. As this is the first division, there will be a five-minute suspension.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Division number 1

For: Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Petrie, Dave, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Swinburne, John, Turner, Dr Jean
Against: Adam, Brian, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 18, Against 84, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1 disagreed to.