Mental Health Act Review

The Government has commissioned an independent review of the Mental Health Act. This is an important opportunity to influence how people are treated when they are at their most unwell.

What is the mental health act?

The Mental Health Act 1983 is the legislation in England and Wales that allows people to be detained and treated for their mental health in hospital against their wishes.

You can find information about your rights under the Mental Health Act on our legal pages and in our guide about sectioning.

What is the Review?

The Government has commissioned Professor Sir Simon Wessely to carry out an independent review of the Mental Health Act. Its job is to:

  • look at how the legislation is currently used
  • look at its impact on service users, families and staff
  • make recommendations for improving the legislation and related practices.

Some of the things they have been asked to look at are the rising rates of detentions, disproportionate numbers of people from black and minority ethnicities who are detained, safeguards, and concerns around community treatment orders (CTOs). A CTO is a form of discharge from detention in hospital where the person is subject to conditions and may be recalled to hospital.

The Review has published an interim report on its work so far and is due to produce a report and recommendations in Autumn 2018. Read Mind's response to the report.

Recommendations to do with health will only be for England as the UK Government does not have responsibility for health in Wales. However the Welsh Government may want to consider the recommendations and we’re expecting the Review team will engage with people in Wales.

Read more about the Review's work and find out how to get involved as opportunities arise.

Why does the Act need to be reviewed?

The 1983 Act is outdated – it was based on earlier legislation and the grounds for detaining people have not changed for many years, even though health care and attitudes towards mental health have changed radically.

Since the Act was last amended ten years ago:

  • there has been a continued rise in detentions
  • people from ‘Black and Black British’ groups are still more subject to coercion than others
  • research has shown that community treatment orders, introduced in the 2008, do not make a difference to whether or not people are readmitted to hospital
  • there have been important developments in recognising the rights of disabled people, which includes people with mental health problems.

A survey by the Mental Health Alliance found that, while a majority of respondents said there were circumstances when being treated against your will in hospital may be necessary, there were deep concerns that people's dignity, autonomy and human rights were being overlooked.

Read Colin King's blog about his experiences of the Mental Health Act, both as a patient and a practitioner.

How is Mind involved?

Mind, together with the Mental Health Alliance, has been calling for a review of the Mental Health Act and we welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement of the review. We are represented on the Review’s advisory panel and helping on one of its working groups.

We’ll publicise further opportunities for people to give their views direct to the Review team.

We will be giving Mind’s views to the Review. To help us work out exactly what we think, we are listening to people with lived experience of detention and exploring ideas together. This work is being guided by a steering group of people with relevant lived experience and skills, and we will publicise opportunities to take part.

What does Mind think?

The Act is not set up to respect people’s wishes or support people’s own decision-making about health care; it does not reflect the values of autonomy, choice and equality that underpin how we regard disabled people, including people with mental health problems.

There are many ways in which we think the Mental Health Act can be improved, and this is also a good opportunity to step back and ask what rights and protections we want from the law. If there were no Mental Health Act, what would we want instead?

We also believe that we can’t look at the Act in isolation, without also addressing underlying failures in mental health services that see people ending up in crisis.

We’ve done a lot of thinking about the Act but want to be sure that what we say to the Review reflects what people most want to see happen. That’s why we’ll be working over the next few months to learn from people’s views and experiences and work on solutions together – looking for answers to the big questions such as “Should the state be able to give treatment to a person against their wishes? And if so, when?”

How can I get involved?

You can keep an eye on the Review's website and take up opportunities to share your views.

You can also share your story and views with us at Mind. We're particularly keen to hear from people from black and minority ethnic groups. Please contact Alison at a.cobb@mind.org.uk.

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