Reforming the Mental Health Act

Just over two years ago, Professor Sir Simon Wessely concluded his Independent Review of the Mental Health Act which readers may recall our briefing on. He made a number of recommendations to reform the Mental Health Act (MHA): legislation which is now almost 40 years old.

This week the Government responded to those recommendations by setting out a package of reforms in the Reforming the Mental Health Act white paper. A white paper is a document produced by the government that sets out proposals for future legislation: The Mental Health Act 2020.

A wide range of changes are proposed to rebalance the MHA, to put patients at the centre of decisions about their own care and ensure everyone is treated equally.

The changes are based on 4 principles that have been developed with people with lived experience of the MHA. They are:

  • choice and autonomy – ensuring service users’ views and choices are respected
  • least restriction – ensuring the MHA’s powers are used in the least restrictive way
  • therapeutic benefit – ensuring patients are supported to get better, so they can be discharged from the MHA
  • the person as an individual – ensuring patients are viewed and treated as individuals

The main changes are set out in the Reforming the MHA: Summary.

The Government would like to hear your views on the proposals, so that they can take these into consideration before any changes are made. A formal consultation on the proposed reforms is now open until 21 April 2021 and you can respond here.

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