Mental Health Alliance gives final verdict on 2007 Mental Health Act

7 August 2007

The new Mental Health Act will go down in history as a missed opportunity for legislation fit for the twenty-first century, the Mental Health Alliance said today.

Publishing its Final Report on the Mental Health Act, the 77-member Alliance said that the Act was much improved by Parliament but fails to modernise mental health law or to promote equality for people with mental health problems.

Alliance chair Andy Bell said: "While other countries, often with less well-developed mental health services, are fundamentally modernising their mental health laws, our already outdated law has at best been mildly improved.

"Alliance members and supporters have achieved some hard-won improvements to the Mental Health Act. The right to advocacy and the new safeguards for children are genuine steps forward. But the overall verdict of Alliance members is that the 2007 Act is a disappointment. Progressive measures such as giving people greater choice and rights to services, have been omitted."

Alliance vice-chair Rowena Daw commented: "The Mental Health Act remains profoundly paternalistic. The refusal to include any test of impaired decision-making and the failure to give patients a right of appeal against the restrictions placed on them while on community treatment orders are fundamental weaknesses in our legislation that will eventually have to be put right.

"But there is still hope. Many key aspects of how the Act will work in practice have been left to the Code of Practice. The Alliance will make every effort to achieve further improvements in the Code and to give service users and their families a voice in that vital process."

The Mental Health Act 2007: A final report is published today, you can download it below.

Download Mental Health Act: a final report (PDF, 70 KB)

Last week, Mental Health Alliance members agreed to continue the work of the Alliance during the consultation on the Code of Practice and to advocate for fair implementation of the Act.