Editorial

Mental Health Act reforms: have your say

New law alone will not address unnecessary detentions of people with learning disabilities 

New law alone will not address unnecessary detentions of people with learning disabilities

The announcement of a review of the Mental Health Act 1983 in England and Wales is welcome news and long overdue.

This legislation is decades old and, it is clear from the perspective of the care and treatment of people with autism and learning disabilities, the new legislation cannot come quickly enough .

Ensure people with learning disabilities in England and Wales receive access to mental healthcare

New law alone will not address unnecessary detentions of people with learning disabilities

A white paper has been launched to replace the Mental Health Act in England and Wales
Picture: iStock

The announcement of a review of the Mental Health Act 1983 in England and Wales is welcome news and long overdue.

This legislation is decades old and, it is clear from the perspective of the care and treatment of people with autism and learning disabilities, the new legislation cannot come quickly enough.

Ensure people with learning disabilities in England and Wales receive access to mental healthcare

Change is needed due to address the human rights of people with learning disabilities in England and Wales, to ensure that they receive access to mental healthcare and treatment that is appropriate to their specific needs.

This is important given the scope and extent of their mental ill-health and the need to access evidence-based treatments.

For some, the support and protection provided through mental health legislation, is essential.

Change to mental health legislation is needed to address the on-going concerns about the number of people with autism and learning disabilities detained for excessive periods of time in assessment and treatment units. This detention is often due to lack of local services appropriate to their needs that enables a prompt discharge.

Invest in local services to avoid unnecessary continued detentions

However, legislation alone, no matter how well intentioned and framed, will not address the wider systemic issues.

There is a need to invest in developing local services, supported by a knowledgeable and skilled workforce, to ensure that ongoing care and support can be provided locally, and thereby eliminate avoidable and unnecessary continued detentions.

A Department of Health and Social care consultation on the white paper lasts until 21 April. If it proceeds without any hitches, after amendments following the consultation, it will be turned into a bill, before being debated in parliament and becoming law.

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