Theresa May announces Mental Health Act review to tackle 'injustices of discrimination'

Prime minister Theresa May has announced a review of the Mental Health Act, ten years on from its last overhaul.

Prime minister Theresa May has announced a review of the Mental Health Act, ten years on from its last overhaul.

Theresa May announces a review of the Mental Health Act at the Conservative Party Conference. Picture: Getty Images

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Wednesday, Ms May said former Royal College of Psychiatrists president Sir Simon Wessely will lead the review of the legislation, focusing on ‘injustice and discrimination’ in the system.

Shortfalls in care

Ms May said the existing legislation, which was originally passed more than 30 years ago, is ‘leading to shortfalls in services and is open to misuse’.

‘Detention rates under the Mental Health Act are too high and it is people from black and minority ethnic (BME) populations who are affected the most,’ she said.

The Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes welcomed the review, but said it must be informed by the experiences of people who have lived with mental health problems.

Traumatic detentions

‘The Mental Health Act is a unique piece of legislation that allows the state to detain and treat a person without their consent,’ Ms Hughes said. ‘It can save lives, but being subject to it can be a traumatic and frightening experience. And it is still disproportionately used with people from BME communities.’

She said the only way to explain the 47% increase in detentions under the act since its revision in 2007 would be to examine the way society has changed and services have developed in the past decade.

Greater dignity for patients

Mind’s head of policy and campaigns Louise Ruben said any new legislation would need to ensure that people with mental health problems have more involvement in decisions about their care.

‘People who are their most unwell need choice, control and dignity, and legislation needs to support that,’ Ms Hughes said.

She said the act must be reviewed in light of ‘underlying failures in mental health services that see people ending up in crisis’.

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