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Government confirms commitment to reform of Mental Health Act

Yesterday’s Queen’s speech confirmed that the government would continue to work to reform the Mental Health Act.

Theresa May previously somewhat surprised the sector by confirming a commitment to reform the Act and this new commitment will no doubt build on the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act by Sir Simon Wessely. The Queen’s speech does not set out the detail of the amendments but it is clearly likely that Sir Simon’s Review will be the foundation of much of that. The government briefing on the Queen’s speech confirms that they will respond to this Review and its recommendations through a White Paper in the New Year, followed by legislation when parliamentary time allows. The briefing confirms their view that the Act requires modernisation to address:

  • a greater control for patients over their treatment
  • making sure patients have a greater say in that care
  • greater choice and autonomy including the ability to set out preferences for care and treatment in advance
  • ensuring dignity and respect
  • reforming the process for detention and providing greater support for patients to challenge detention
  • making it easier for individuals with learning disabilities and autism to be discharged from hospital and improve how they are treated in law

The detailed timescale for the implementation of any new legislation has not been confirmed and is probably unlikely to be for at least a year or two. On one level that is a good thing as the sector still needs to see the code of practice to support the Liberty Protection Safeguards and ensure that staff are trained on this in readiness for October 2020 when the Safeguards are due to come into force.

However, given the significant government majority in the Commons after the election, a new or amended Mental Health Act is now likely to be a matter of when rather than if.


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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