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Government commits to new Mental Health Bill

Government will introduce new Mental Health Bill following independent review of existing legislation

Published on 10th December 2018

A new Mental Health Bill is set to be introduced by the government following  the final report from the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983.

The government is accepting two of the review’s recommendations to modernise the Mental Health Act following the publication of the independent review by Professor Sir Simon Wessely. The government will issue a formal response to the review’s recommendations in the New Year before preparing the new legislation.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The disparity in our mental health services is one of the burning injustices this country faces that we must put right.

"For decades it has somehow been accepted that if you have a mental illness, you will not receive the same access to treatment as if you have a physical ailment. Well, that is not acceptable.

"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," she added.

In October 2017, the Prime Minister announced the independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983 to make improvements following rising detention rates, racial disparities in detention and concerns that the Act is out of step with a modern mental health system. The review team was also asked to consider how to improve practice within the existing legislation.

The two recommendations which the government has accepted are:

1) Those detained under the Act will be allowed to nominate a person of their choice to be involved in decisions about their care. Currently, they have no say on which relative is contacted. This can lead to distant or unknown relatives being called upon to make important decisions about their care when they are at their most vulnerable.

2) People will also be able to express their preferences for care and treatment and have these listed in statutory ‘advance choice’ documents. The concept of Advance Choice Documents (ACDs) means patients and service users are encouraged to voice their views about any future inpatient care and treatment.

The report, which makes 154 recommendations, concluded: "We believe our recommendations will help make the Mental Health Act support our modern expectations of how people, particularly disabled people and people from ethnic minority communities, should be cared for. If implemented, patients and service users should experience improved choice, less coercion and restriction of their liberties, care that is more consistently respectful, and meets their individual needs."

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “It’s good to see mental health finally getting the focus that it deserves. The report makes some important recommendations about how to bring the Mental Health Act up to date and give people a stronger say in their treatment. It’s positive that the review listened to local government and recognises the role of community mental health services in preventing people from reaching crisis point in the first place.

“The LGA has consistently called for a re-focus in mental health services away from medicalisation and treating mental ill health to early intervention and support for recovery through integrated community based services.

“However, for many years mental health services at all levels have been reduced despite rising demand. This report has issued a timely call to action for Government to focus on prevention and we urge Ministers to follow through with much-needed investment in community mental health services.

“Councils are keen to work with the Government to help improve the mental wellbeing of all of our communities. With local government facing an overall funding gap of £7.8 billion by 2024/25, councils need adequate funding for the full range of services, such as housing, leisure, social services and public health, which contribute to mental wellness and play an essential part in the mental health system," he added.

President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Glen Garrod, said: “ADASS has been pleased to be involved in this review.  The recommendations in this report are welcome as a contribution to the modernisation of this country’s mental health services, which are about giving people who need these services more control and the specific support they need.

“Good mental health services are required both in and outside of hospital settings, and involve housing, primary and community health services and adult social care.

“Social work and personal care and support are essential components of good services to support mental wellbeing, and can include ensuring people have somewhere to live, have safe and supportive relationships, and support with income and employment.

“We look forward to working with colleagues across health and social care to consider how the review’s recommendations will complement the priorities of the Adult Social Care Green Paper and the NHS Long-Term Plan, and then to implement the plans together.  It is essential that the health and care system works together to deliver integrated care for those who need health and care services," he added.

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