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The independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983 has been published. The Act sets out when people with a mental health problem can be detained and treated in hospital against their will.
The review was established by Prime Minister Theresa May last year to look at how the legislation is used and what needs to change. Recommendations include minimising the numbers of people being held against their will; strengthening the rights, dignity and wellbeing of people who are in extremely vulnerable situations; and dealing with racial inequality in the use of the Act.
Mind was part of the steering and working groups for the review and Steven Gilbert, who has lived experience of the Act and is also trustee at Mind, was the vice-chair of the board.
Responding to the review, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
"Mind welcomes the review and the recommendations of the panel. This outdated legislation has seen thousands of people experience poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, who still live with the consequences to this day. We are pleased to see that many of our concerns – and those of the people we represent and have supported to feed into the review – have been heard.
“The recommendations to strengthen people’s rights, empower them to question decisions about their care, choose their treatment and involve friends and family have the potential to make a real difference to those who are in an extremely vulnerable situation. We back the call for people on mental health wards to have a legal right to an independent advocate and agree that people who have been detained should be able to choose which family members and friends can make decisions about their care and treatment.
“It’s good to see the review address racial inequalities. We know that black people are disproportionately sectioned, are more likely to be restrained, and are most likely to be put on a Community Treatment Order. These orders have been proven ineffective in reducing hospital readmission. Tightening the rules for imposing them is a small step in the right direction but we are disappointed that the review has not called to scrap them. Likewise, we back the promotion of race equality in mental health services and in the use of the Act but this must come with concrete commitments, including that the NHS builds relationships with local communities.
“The Government now needs to take this review forward as soon as possible so that people with mental health problems get the support they need. A key test of the recommendations will be their impact on racial inequality and we look forward to the NHS long-term plan which will set out how mental health care will be transformed. These recommended changes are much needed but detentions will only reduce when people have access to quality, culturally relevant and timely care, so that fewer people end up in a mental health crisis.”