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Independent review presents interim report on detention under the Mental Health Act

Professor Simon Wessely 430x275

An independent review of the Mental Health Act, chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), has presented an interim report outlining key areas of concern over how the legislation is used to detain people with severe mental illness.

In October 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May commissioned Professor Wessely to chair the review in response to increasing numbers of people being detained under the Act, with the aspiration to reduce the number of compulsory detentions. The independent review was set up to look not just at legislation, but also how the law interacts with services, good practice and the wider care system.

‘People with the most severe forms of mental illness have the greatest needs and continue to be the most neglected and discriminated against,’ says Professor Wessely, who is Regius Professor of Psychiatry at King’s College London. ‘Furthermore, they are also the group who are the most likely to be subject to the influence and powers of the Mental Health Act.’

The review was also tasked with looking at into rates of detention among BAME communities. The interim report finds that people of African and Caribbean descent are detained more than any other group. 

The review undertook a survey of over 2,000 service users and carers who were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that being detained has been the best approach for their mental health needs. While many said that being detained under the Act saved their lives, many also said they were not treated with enough dignity and respect.

In the report, the review says the need to tackle this lack of dignity and respect drives many of the reform areas under consideration. The review is only at the half way point, and recommendations for government will be presented in autumn 2018. 

Professor Wessely said: ‘Most of the matters raised in our interim report are still very much open for discussion. We want to express our thanks to the extraordinary number of people who have already contributed their experiences and knowledge to our work so far.’

In November 2017 the Policy Institute at King’s College London brought together a group of stakeholders, including Professor Wessely and Dr Gareth Owen from IoPPN, as part of a ‘policy lab’ to consider the future of the Mental Health Act. A newly published briefing note from the policy lab outlines six ‘areas of tension’ of relevance to the ongoing review, and four principles to shape the future of the Act. 



For further media information please contact Robin Bisson, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, / +44 20 7848 5377 / +44 7718 697176.