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Major Reform of the Mental Health Act

The White Paper ‘Reforming the Mental Health Act’ as promised by the Government was published today. Announcing its launch, the press release confirms that the White Paper sets out the path towards the Government’s commitment to introduce the first new Mental Health Bill for 30 years, and end the stigma of mental illness once and for all.

The package of reforms is set out in the document ‘Reforming the Mental Health Act’ which builds on the recommendations made by Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent Review of the Mental Health Act in 2018. (See our briefing for his recommendations).

The Government will consult on a number of proposed changes, including:

  • introducing statutory ‘advance choice documents’ to enable people to express their wishes and preferences on their care when they are well, before the need arises for them to go into hospital
  • implementing the right for an individual to choose a nominated person who is best placed to look after their interests under the act if they aren’t able to do so themselves
  • expanding the role of independent mental health advocates to offer a greater level of support and representation to every patient detained under the act
  • piloting culturally appropriate advocates so patients from all ethnic backgrounds can be better supported to voice their individual needs
  • ensuring mental illness is the reason for detention under the act, and that neither autism nor a learning disability are grounds for detention for treatment of themselves
  • improving access to community-based mental health support, including crisis care, to prevent avoidable detentions under the act – this is already underway backed by £2.3 billion a year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan

The DHSC states that at the heart of the proposed reforms is greater choice and autonomy for patients in a mental health crisis, ensuring the act’s powers are used in the least restrictive way, that patients receive the care they need to help them recover and all patients are viewed and treated as individuals.

The reforms aim to tackle the racial disparities in mental health services, better meet the needs of people with learning disabilities and autism and ensure appropriate care for people with serious mental illness within the criminal justice system.

The DHSC urges participation in the consultation which will take place over the next three months to help shape future legislation, service approaches, and modernise the act’s principles and values.

We looked at what the reforms of the Mental Health Act might be in a series of briefings last year. Click here to view the series.


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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