MSPs call for 'blunt instrument' Covid emergency laws to be repealed

MSPs have called for "unnecessary and arbitrary" Coronavirus emergency laws to be repealed amid concerns over the detention of Scots with mental health conditions.

Christina McKelvie is being urged to work with the UK Government to repeal the emergency laws on detention

The legislation has been branded a “blunt instrument" by Holyrood's Equalities committee which also says the six month wait for a review is unacceptable.

The Scottish Government is also being urged to probe concerns which have previously been raised over older Scots being pressured into signing controversial "do not resuscitate" forms in hospital.

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The Committee is investigating the human rights impact of Covid-19 and the effect of the emergency measures imposed on people across Scotland.

Convener Ruth Maguire has now written to Older People and Equalities minister Christina McKelvie raising concerns over Schedule 9 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. This provides for longer periods of emergency detention and makes it simpler for securing short-term detention certificates and compulsory treatment orders, but the powers have not yet been brought into force. So far, it has not been used.

Ms Ruth Maguire said: “Coupled with this overarching point is the Committee’s concern around the lack of detail about when use of the legislation would be triggered.

“As a human rights defender, the Committee considers this approach is the very reason why legislation, a blunt instrument, should be repealed. Having the power as a ‘backstop’ while not having a clear threshold, and awaiting an arbitrary six-month review is an unacceptable position when people’s rights are being removed.”

The committee has also highlighted concerns that elderly patients hospitalised during the coronavirus pandemic have been pressured into signing “do not resuscitate” forms.

It comes after evidence heard by MSPs that older people had been encouraged by NHS staff to complete “Do Not Attempt CPR” forms – which state that potentially life-saving CPR should not be performed should their heart stop – without patients fully understanding the implications.

The Scottish Government is now being urged to investigate the circumstances which led to this.

“The Committee considers it is of considerable importance to understand what has happened in relation to DNACPR forms," Ms Maguire adds.

"Older people’s human rights must be protected, and steps taken to ensure that any roll back is remedied immediately.

“Only by inquiring into the circumstances will the Scottish Government fully understand why the guidance, which is familiar to clinicians, was insufficient in these circumstances and what actions should be taken to prevent a reoccurrence in the future.”

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