MHA statement on the review of sections 135 and 136 of The Mental Health Act

23 December 2014

The Mental Health Alliance welcomed last week's report and recommendations on sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. The Alliance particularly welcomed the Rt Hon Norman Lamb's statement accompanying the report which acknowledged the contribution of service users, their families and carers.

Alliance Acting Chair, Suzanne Hudson, said, "It is positive the Government is listening to the experiences of service users and the concerns of organisations supporting individuals and families affected by mental illness.

"Although this review is welcome progress, challenges remain and Alliance members will continue to work together to ensure the best possible treatment for people subject to the Mental Health Act."

Members of the Mental Health Alliance responded to the report:

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health, said "We welcome the Government's approach to changing people's experiences of Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act. The report clearly heeds the evidence gathered from professionals, service users and family members.

"The legislative changes proposed in the report are a proportionate response to the needs presented in our review and the wider evidence provided to government. They must be accompanied by robust action nationally and locally to improve crisis care for children and adults alike with mental health problems.

"This should include investment in age-appropriate places of safety in all areas; in the promising role of street triage to prevent the use of these sections wherever possible; and in the provision of liaison psychiatry services for people who attend A&E in a mental health emergency.

"It is vital that in all areas of the country local action plans to implement the Crisis Care Concordat are in place and that commissioners of health, social care and police services secure adequate levels of provision to meet the needs of the people they serve."

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "Being in mental health crisis can be frightening, confusing and even life-threatening, which means that urgent care from mental health services is vital. A police cell is a completely inappropriate place to put someone who is so unwell and this is particularly true for children, so we welcome any revisions to the Mental Health Act that will put a stop to this. It is also important to acknowledge that it's no more appropriate for adults to be put in police cells, yet this continues to happen too frequently.

"Very often people with mental health problems are being put in cells because of a lack of health-based alternatives. Committing to putting a stop to young people being placed in police cells can't become a reality if there arenít appropriate mental health services in place as an alternative. Commissioners must address this and make sure that mental health is given its fair share of the budget to ensure that services are properly resourced to meet demand."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said, "SANE welcomes Theresa May's intentions but, while there are days when no mental health beds are available across the country and psychiatric units continue to be closed, it will take huge investment to make this change of legislation a reality. The current shortage of beds and the state of overcrowded, understaffed wards make them far from safe places to detain either children or adults.

"While psychiatric services remain in crisis, we will have to continue to rely on the police to keep patients and the public safe."