We inform debate and legislation in UK Parliament that affect people with mental health problems. This involves:
- sending briefings to MPs and Peers
- meeting politicians to improve awareness of mental health in Parliament
- campaigning to improve policies.
NHS Funding Bill
The NHS Funding Bill is one of the first pieces of legislation that Boris Johnson’s new Government introduced in 2020. It aims to put into law the extra money that they’ve said they’d give the NHS. That’s an extra £33.9bn a year by 2024.
This funding was first announced in the NHS Long Term Plan in January 2019. The Long Term Plan sets out how, over the next decade, NHS England will use this extra money to improve services and meet the increasing demands of a growing and ageing population.
We were pleased to see mental health be given the attention it deserves within the Long Term Plan. For too long, those with mental health problems have had to put up with second-rate, second-class services. And there are still far too many people struggling to access treatment and support. Decades of underfunding and neglect mean that services are often delivered in places that aren’t good enough and sometimes even dangerous. Plus, there are significant shortages in the mental health workforce.
We’ve joined together with, The Royal College of Psychiatrists and Rethink Mental Illness to call on Parliament to amend the NHS Funding Bill. We want to see a new clause inserted. This clause would mean the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care would be legally required to report to Parliament every year. They’d specifically have to report how funding for mental health services has moved us closer to valuing mental health as much as we do physical health. Parliament would have a chance to look at this report and make sure the Government is keeping its promises.
The Mental Health Act Review
The Mental Health Act 1983 is the main piece of legislation which sets out when you can be detained and treated in hospital without your agreement, and your rights in these circumstances. This is also known as being sectioned. At over 30 years old, the Mental Health Act 1983 is outdated and in urgent need of reform. Attitudes towards mental health have changed radically in recent years, however the Act has not kept up with this progress.
In October 2017, the Government commissioned an independent review of the Mental Health Act, led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely and the final report was published in December 2018. It included 154 recommendations aimed at improving people’s experiences under the Act and reducing the need to detain people under the Act.
We are waiting for the Government to fully respond to the Review, but they have already accepted three recommendations and committed to bringing forward a mental health reform Bill. We are calling on the Government to implement all of the Review’s recommendations and are asking MPs from all parties to support reform of the Mental Health Act. Over the next few months we’ll be working to build MP’s understanding of why the Mental Health Act needs to change so that they can scrutinise the Government’s mental health reform Bill when it is introduced to Parliament.
Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act
We’ve been campaigning to reduce the use of restraint since 2011. Our campaigning s has led to national guidance and commitments to reduce its use. There are lots of examples of good practice. But in some areas, those of us with a mental health problem still experience being put into restraint daily.
That’s why we supported the introduction of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill. This Private Members Bill, sponsored by Steve Reed MP, aimed to reduce the use of force, specifically in mental health hospitals. Steve Reed introduced the Bill following the death of Seni Lewis, one of his constituents. Seni sadly died after being restrained in a mental health hospital.
We campaigned to encourage MPs to support ‘Seni’s Law’ in Parliament and for amendments to improve the Bill. The Bill secured Royal Assent at the end of 2018 and came into force in March 2020. It means the following:
- better training for staff to manage difficult situations
- better data, improve transparency, and highlight problem areas.
- police will need to wear body cameras when called to mental health settings, which can be used in evidence.
Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019
Sometimes, medical professionals may deem us not to have the capacity to make decisions about our care and treatment because of how unwell we are. The Mental Capacity Act is there to keep those of us deemed not to have capacity safe. Sometimes, those of us considered to lack capacity may have restrictive care arrangements, such as:
- not being allowed to leave the place where they are receiving treatment without permission
- not being able to see their family.
The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) sets out the procedures for putting restrictive care arrangements in place. It also sets out the safeguards to protect people’s rights in these circumstances.
In July 2018, the Government introduced the Mental Capacity Act (Amendment) Bill. The Bill proposed to bring in a new set of procedures for introducing restrictive care arrangements. The DoLS system has been heavily criticised for being too complicated, and there’s currently a significant backlog in applications.
We understood the need to overhaul DoLS. But we were worried that the proposed procedure (called the Liberty Protection Safeguards) wouldn’t give those of us with a mental health problem enough protection. Together with some other charities, we campaigned for vital changes to strengthen people’s rights under the Bill.
The Bill received Royal Assent in May 2019. Although MPs and Peers have made some important changes, we still have several concerns about the new process. We’re now working with the Government to make sure that the guidance that accompanies the Bill is as clear as possible about people’s rights.
Around one-third of all GP appointments involve mental health. We want everyone who visits their GP practice to get the support they need. But we know that many of your constituents are not getting the proper help for their mental health in primary care.
Our new campaign makes sure that all GP practices can provide quality mental health support. Over the next few years, we’ll be campaigning for:
- local commissioners to improve the mental health support provided through primary care
- improved mental health training for GPs and other primary care staff
- better mental health and wellbeing support for all primary care staff
We want to campaign with all MPs to improve your constituents' mental health care in your local GP practices. Our new campaign is all about, and we invite you to join us to improve local services.
The Mental Health Taskforce
For too long, those of us with mental health problems have had to put up with second-rate, second-class services. This has affected lives. And it's cost lives.
The Mental Health Taskforce is an independent group of experts chaired by Mind's CEO Paul Farmer. The Taskforce has produced a report and recommendations to transform mental health care over the next 5 years. Now it's down to Government, the NHS and other organisations to get the job done.