Queen’s speech promises legislation to reform the Mental Health Act

In last week’s (10 May 2022) Queen’s speech, the Government announced its plans to publish draft legislation to reform the Mental Health Act in England and Wales.

It has been some three years since Professor Sir Simon Wessely concluded his Independent Review of the Mental Health Act and over a year since the Government responded to those recommendations with the publication of its White Paper. You can read our collection of blogs on the package of reforms in the Reforming the Mental Health Act White Paper here.

The Queen’s speech provides some further context to the draft Bill, with an explanation of its purpose and the main benefits (set out at pages 100-102).

It explains that the main elements of the Bill are:

“● Amending the definition of mental disorder so that people can no longer be detained solely because they have a learning disability or because they are autistic.

● Changing the criteria needed to detain people, so that the Act is only used where strictly necessary: where the person is a genuine risk to their own safety or that of others, and where there is a clear therapeutic benefit.

● Giving patients better support, including offering everyone the option of an independent mental health advocate, and allowing patients to choose their own ‘nominated person’, rather than have a ‘nearest relative’ assigned for them.

● Introducing a 28-day time-limit for transfers from prison to hospital for acutely ill prisoners and ending the temporary use of prison for those awaiting assessment or treatment.

● Introducing a new form of supervised community discharge. This will allow the discharge of restricted patients into the community, with the necessary care and supervision to adequately and appropriately manage their risk.

● Increasing the frequency with which patients can make appeals to Tribunals on their detention and provide Tribunals with a power to recommend that aftercare services are put in place.

● Introducing a statutory care and treatment plan for all patients in detention. This will be written with the patient and will set out a clear pathway to discharge.”

We know that healthcare professionals and patients will welcome this announcement but clearly there is still scope for change as the proposed reforms undergo further scrutiny.

We will keep readers posted.

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