The independent Review of the Mental Health Act, chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, has published its final report and the Government has committed to bring forward legislative changes in line with the Review’s recommendations.
In October 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May commissioned Professor Wessely, who is Regius Professor of Psychiatry at King’s College London, 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 Review recommends changes to the Mental Health Act such that:
- People’s wishes and preferences should carry far more legal weight
- Action is needed for people from ethnic minority communities, children and young people, people in the criminal justice system, and those with a learning disability, autism, or both
- The use of compulsion should be targeted and justifications should be transparent
- Services should be modernised as well as the law
Over 50 focus groups and over 1,500 survey responses from service users and carers were incorporated to inform the Review’s recommendations, as well as over 150 responses from professionals and organisations.
The 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. The main theme of the review is that the patient voice should be heard louder and should carry more weight than has been the case in the past.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely said: ‘The Mental Health Act was written when people with a mental health problem were something to be afraid of. But the way we think about mental health and illness has changed dramatically, so now they are more likely to be seen as people to be helped.
‘The Act needs to make it easier for people to express their choices and preferences about how they want to be treated, and harder for them to be ignored. It is time for the Mental Health Act to be brought up to date.’
The Government has committed to introduce new legislation to reform the Mental Health Act and is accepting two of the Review’s recommendations.
When someone is detained under the current Act, they are given no choice as to which relative is contacted, which can lead to distant or unknown relatives being called upon to make important decisions about their care when they are at their most vulnerable. The Government is accepting a recommendation from the Review that will allow people to nominate a person of their choice to be involved in decisions made about their care.
A second recommendation, which will allow people to express their preferences for care and treatment in a way that is listed through the introduction of statutory Advance Choice Documents, is also being accepted.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: ‘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.’