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Breakdown of Mental Health Laws Reform

Posted on January 2021 By Jamie Southwell

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Extensive changes made to the Mental Health Act under a new reform introduced with the purpose of enabling individuals to control their care and treatment more. Coming at no greater of a time after a recent report evidenced 45% of NHS staff are displaying signs of psychological trauma from the first wave of the pandemic.

Earlier in the week the Government announced a “landmark reform” of the mental health laws, effecting a large sum of the population suffering from mental health issues. The reforms focus tackling a growing disconnect between mental and physical health services, putting patient’s views at the forefront of their focus.

According to the Government, the proposal of these reforms is said to benefit people with mental health issues who are still being detained under the Mental Health Act. Being built off the guidance of Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent review of the Mental Health Act in 2018, which states “little has changed” since 1989 in regards to the discrimination against certain ethnic backgrounds.

Additionally, those with learning disabilities and those in the criminal justice system with serious mental illnesses will receive more appropriate responses in proportion to the severity of their cases. Making the commitment to finally brown the mental health stigmas once and for all, the introduction of the bill be the first of its kind in 30 years.

In full changes proposed include:

  • Introducing statutory ‘advance choice documents’ to enable people to express their wishes and preferences on their care when they are well, before the need arises for them to go into hospital.

  • Implementing the right for an individual to choose a nominated person who is best placed to look after their interests under the act if they aren’t able to do so themselves.

  • Expanding the role of independent mental health advocates to offer a greater level of support and representation to every patient detained under the act.

  • Piloting culturally appropriate advocates so patients from all ethnic backgrounds can be better supported to voice their individual needs.

  • Ensuring mental illness is the reason for detention under the act, and that neither autism nor a learning disability are grounds for detention for treatment of themselves.

  • Improving access to community-based mental health support, including crisis care, to prevent avoidable detentions under the act – this is already underway backed by £2.3 billion a year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Consultations will continue until an expected date of March 2021 for changes which require legislation and a draft Mental Health bill will be shared next year.

The Health Sectary, Matt Hancock, spoke on the bill by saying “We need to bring mental health laws into the 21st century. Reforming the mental health Act is one of our central manifesto commitments, so the law helps get the best possible care to everyone who needs it.”