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02.05.18

'Lack of dignity and respect' for those detained under Mental Health Act, says government report

Treatment from UK services of mentally-ill people detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) were deemed to have a “lack of dignity and respect,” according to a new report.

The survey, ordered by Theresa May last October, canvassed the opinion of over 2000 service users and carers and identified a large number of opportunities for improving the MHA and associated practice.

The report assesses the effectiveness and the impact of the Mental Health Act 1983 in assessing the treatment and rights of people with a mental health disorder. It also evaluates the rising detention rates in the mental health sector.

Many of the service users, according to survey findings, had a positive or largely positive view that being detained was the best course of action for their mental health needs; yet almost an equal number did not believe detention had been the right approach for them, with the report claiming users “raise serious issues” about their previous mental health detentions.

Additionally, just one third of those surveyed felt that they were treated with dignity and respect whilst being detained, and two thirds did not. The report found it “concerning” that people do not feel safe whilst under detention.

People with learning disabilities and/or autism were also found to have concerns that they were sometimes detained under the act because appropriate community support was unavailable, or that hospitals do “not necessarily provide the right environment and appropriate care for these particular needs.”

The review said: “It is clear that the MHA needs to change. The need to tackle this lack of dignity and respect drives many of the specific reform areas that we are considering.

“We are clear that improvements cannot be achieved by legislation alone. Whilst legislative change is critical, any changes to the MHA must be underpinned by improvements to mental health services.”

The relationship between the Mental Health Act and the criminal justice system could also be improved according to the survey. Issues such as service users being left for long periods in prison instead of hospital and decision-making processes for restricted patients being “often lengthy” feature in the report.

The report noted that experiences of people from black African and Caribbean heritage are detained more than any group. To improve relations between the services and these communities the report suggests taking “proper account” of people’s cultural circumstances and needs.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “It is crucial the Mental Health Act works for all people affected by it and we therefore welcome a refresh which puts an emphasis on giving service users a say in as many aspects of care as possible.

“The variation in detention rates between ethnic groups is deeply concerning and we look forward to closer scrutiny on what can be done to remove this disparity. We hope the government will see fit to ensure any suggested changes to practice are fully resourced – rather than relying on providers to further stretch their limited resources.”

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