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.
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.
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.
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.
On most occasions when section 6 will be used, a medical problem will be present in the background, which could be solved quickly,
I press amendment 1.
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