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Amend flawed Mental Health Act, says think tank

Patients and professionals need a Mental Health Act that better fits the needs of the population, that accounts for discrimination in mental health treatment, and that includes the viewpoints of those on the front line of mental health provision.

The Conservative Party pledged to repeal the Mental Health Act if they were re-elected into government. The Queen’s Speech reiterated this:

‘My government will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England.’

On 6 July 2017, we held a think tank at our London offices to which we invited health professionals from both the public and private sectors, academics and regulators.

They discussed what works and what does not work so well under the existing Act and what changes could usefully be included in the Government’s proposed Mental Health Bill.

This report is a summary of those discussions.

The top recommendations from the think tank are:

Children with mental health issues need better support

The Mental Health Bill should clarify the legal position of children with mental health needs, such as complex autism, as they are often placed inappropriately and out of area. Funding for new beds is also required.

Older prisoners need purpose-built secure accommodation

Prisons are not meeting the needs of older prisoners with dementia or those in need of palliative care. They should be held in an age-appropriate environment with specially trained staff.

The role of Hospital Manager should be abolished

The role should be replaced by a speedier, more accessible tribunal. Service users should sit on the tribunal panel.

Searching of psychiatric inpatients

The Mental Health Bill should include clearer information about searching of patients and their families.

Replace the Nearest Relative role with Scotland’s Named Person role

Patients should be able to choose their own Nearest Relative, bringing England and Wales into line with Scotland’s system. This new role should have curtailed powers, by removing the ability to discharge completely.

Our comment

Andrew Parsons, Head of Healthcare – Providers, comments:

‘The Conservative Party’s manifesto announcement took many by surprise. However, those involved in implementing the Mental Health Act are aware of the deficiencies in the current legislation. The think tank has highlighted several of these and we hope this is of assistance to the Government in preparing new legislation.’


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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