Government commits to reform the Mental Health Act
The government has announced new legislation to reform mental health care
The government will introduce a new Mental Health Bill to transform mental health care, following publication of the final report from the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983. The government is accepting 2 of the review’s recommendations to modernise the Mental Health Act.
Those detained under the Act will be allowed to nominate a person of their choice to be involved in decisions about their care. Currently, they have no say on which relative is contacted. This can lead to distant or unknown relatives being called upon to make important decisions about their care when they are at their most vulnerable.
People will also be able to express their preferences for care and treatment and have these listed in statutory ‘advance choice’ documents.
In October 2017, the Prime Minister announced an independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983 to make improvements following rising detention rates, racial disparities in detention and concerns that the Act is out of step with a modern mental health system. The review team was also asked to consider how to improve practice within the existing legislation.
The government will issue a formal response to the review’s recommendations in the New Year before preparing the new legislation.
Prime Minister Theresa May said:
"The disparity in our mental health services is one of the burning injustices this country faces that we must put right.
"For decades it has somehow been accepted that if you have a mental illness, you will not receive the same access to treatment as if you have a physical ailment. Well, that is not acceptable.
"I commissioned this review because I am determined to make sure those suffering from mental health issues are treated with dignity and respect, with their liberty and autonomy respected.
"By bringing forward this historic legislation – the new Mental Health Bill – we can ensure people are in control of their care, and are receiving the right treatment and support they need.
"I’m grateful to Professor Sir Simon Wessely and his team for their tireless work on this vitally important review."
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
"With 1 in 4 people being affected by mental ill health at some point in their lives, it is more important than ever that we put mental and physical health on an equal footing.
"I am determined to do everything I can to protect people’s mental health and get them the help they need. The proposed new Mental Health Bill will give patients more control over their treatment and make sure that our mental health laws are fit for the modern age."
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s National Director for Mental Health, said:
"We warmly welcome Sir Simon Wessely’s report, which makes a compelling case for modernising the Mental Health Act. This timely and important review makes the case for better legislation to underpin the service improvements needed for the most severely mentally ill people while also tackling health inequalities in our society.
"High-quality support in the community before a person reaches crisis point, coupled with improved crisis services when they are needed, will both help, but the review is also right to argue that anyone who needs to be in hospital should get the best care during and after their inpatient stay."