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Government commits to reform the Mental Health Act

MENTAL HEALTH:

THE GOVERNMENT will introduce a new Mental Health Bill to transform mental health care, following publication of the final report from the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983.

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.

People will also be able to express their preferences for care and treatment and have these listed in statutory ‘advance choice’ documents.

In October 2017, the Prime Minister announced an 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 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.

The review, which was spearheaded by Sir Simon Wessely has been described as "vitally important". Of the review, Wessely said: "The Mental Health Act was written when people with a mental health problem were something to be afraid of. But the way we think about mental health and illness has changed dramatically, so now they are more likely to be seen as people to be helped.

"And the Act needs to help them more. For example, to make it easier for people to express their choices and preferences about how they want to be treated, and harder for them to be ignored. It is time for the Mental Health Act to be brought up to date."

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