Queen’s Speech to include Mental Health Act reforms aimed at reducing detentions

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The Queen’s Speech will include an overhaul of mental health powers to protect patient liberty and prevent those with learning difficulties from being detained without their consent, No 10 said.

Boris Johnson said a draft mental health bill, to be announced in the Government’s new legislative agenda next week, will ensure “no patient is detained unnecessarily”.

Downing Street described the Mental Health Act, which was introduced in 1983, as “outdated” and said it can be “too easily used to deprive the library and autonomy” of society’s most vulnerable.

People with learning disabilities and autism can currently be detained under the Act even if the patient does not suffer from any mental health conditions, meaning patients can be kept in psychiatric units when they would benefit from being cared for elsewhere.

The draft bill will end that practice by removing learning disabilities and autism as mental health disorders warranting compulsory hospital treatment so patients can be supported more appropriately, according to No 10.

The Prime Minister said: “Our mental health laws are antiquated.

“Every person deserves to be treated with dignity, and it is our duty to ensure the rights and freedoms of our most vulnerable in society are protected and respected.

“Our reforms to the Mental Health Act are the first in four decades, and will make sure that every patient receives the treatment they deserve and no patient is detained unnecessarily.”

The reforms outlined in the bill, due to be formally announced on Tuesday, aim to reduce the number of people detained under the Act.

Sir Simon Wessely, pictured with the Duchess of Cambridge, reviewed the way the Mental Health Act is being used
Sir Simon Wessely, pictured with the Duchess of Cambridge, reviewed the way the Mental Health Act is being used (Geoff Pugh/The Daily Telegraph/PA)

The number of detentions increased by 40% between 2005/06 and 2015/16 and continue to rise year-on-year, according to figures shared by the UK Government.

Officials said the Bill would take forward the majority of the recommendations made by Professor Sir Simon Wessely’s 2018 independent review which looked at how the Mental Health Act is used in practice.

Its changes will include rebalancing the threshold for detention, weighing up both the risk to the public and the therapeutic benefit to the patient.

The draft legislation will also look to strengthen the rights of patients to express a treatment preference and set out a plan for each individual’s care, providing them with a route to eventual discharge.

Ministers wants to reduce the use of Community Treatment Orders, which permits authorities to restrict where a person lives when released from a mental health care facility, as part of the overhaul.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The Mental Health Act is now 40 years old.

“We need to bring mental health laws into the 21st century so everyone who needs help can get the best possible care.

“Our proposed legislation will ensure people from ethnic minority backgrounds, people with learning disabilities and autism and people in the criminal justice system receive the mental health care they need to support them to get better.

“This is part of my mission to tackle disparities and level up healthcare across the country ensuring everyone has the ability to live healthier, happier lives.”

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