Mental health reforms on pause – again

The Times has reported that the government is preparing to abandon its plans to reform the Mental Health Act – a key government pledge from its 2019 Conservative manifesto.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely led the government commissioned review into the Mental Health Act and published his findings in 2018. His recommendations formed the basis for the draft Bill and you can read our collection of blogs summarising the key provisions of the draft Bill here

The changes were designed to put patients at the centre of decisions about their own care and ensure everyone is treated equally including removing learning disabilities and autism as grounds for detention.  

He told the Times:

“I would be very disappointed as we’re so close to the finishing line if it was delayed again.
Severe mental illness is not a vote winner. It’s not a vote loser, [but] it’s not a vote winner either."

“My view is it is the kind of thing that governments should do. It is the right thing to do, and it needs to be done. Lots of people have put a lot of work into this. It’s not controversial. Nobody seems to disagree with what we’re trying to do."

“We’re nearly there. And I really wouldn’t like us to have lost the momentum we have.”

According to the Health Service Journal report on 5 September 2023, Sean Duggan of NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network told Mental Health Matters:

“Delays to the long-awaited reforms of the MHA are disappointing, especially after leaders worked hard on the design of the legislation, which they believe best outlined and enabled what they need to achieve for the delivery of mental health services. We must not let the reforms be dropped, and it has to remain a priority.”

To date, the Department of Health and Social Care said it will bring the Bill forward “when Parliamentary time allows” but it seems unlikely that it will be included in the Government’s legislative agenda to be set out in the King’s Speech on 7 November 2023.

However a number of commitments on mental ill health are covered in the Government’s major conditions strategy policy paper published last month. Annex B sets out what the strategy will mean for mental ill health.

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