Care Pathways

06.12.18

May promises reform as review reveals ‘outdated’ Mental Health Act infringing on patient rights

Patients with severe mental health problems “should be given more rights over treatments” to ensure better care is provided if they are detained for compulsory treatment, according to a review.

The independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983 – which means people can be sent against their will to receive treatment for mental health – has issued its recommendations on how to improve and reform an “outdated” system.

The review, commissioned by Theresa May in October 2017, investigated rising detention rates, large racial disparities in the people being detained, and concerns that the Act was out of touch with the modern NHS mental health system.

In response, May promised change and has announced a new Mental Health Bill to reform and modernise the Act.

Almost 50,000 people were sectioned in the UK in 2017-18, with the figure rising by 40% between 2005 and 2016, and the review said that these people should be able to set out how they want to be looked after.

The review, led by professor Sir Simon Wessely, stated that patients detained in a psychiatric unit needed a major extension of their rights as, under the current system, sectioning is being misused and gives default power to the patient’s next of kin without considering if they are estranged or abusive.

Setting out how the outdated system could better respect people’s rights, the review argued that patients should be able to challenge decisions taken by psychiatrists about their treatment, and patients should be able to set out in detail the form of care they want – such as the drugs they wish to receive.

Wessely said: “If there’s one important theme from the whole thing it is to ensure the voice of the patient is heard louder and more distinctly and carries more weight than it has in the past.”

“Even when deprived of their liberty, patients will still have a say in their treatment, with greater and newer protections than they have had before.”

Responding to the review, the chief executive of Mind, Paul Farmer commented: This outdated legislation has seen thousands of people experience poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, who still live with the consequences to this day.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.

Theresa May said the government will issue a formal response to the recommendations in the new year, and commented: “The disparity in our mental health services is one of the burning injustices this country faces that we must put right.

“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.”

Matt Hancock added: “I am determined to do everything I can to protect people’s mental health and get them the help they need. The proposed new Mental Health Bill will give patients more control over their treatment and make sure that our mental health laws are fit for the modern age."

Image credit - asiseeit

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