Mental Health legislation provides the framework for the care, treatment and protection of patients who may need to be admitted to hospital and to receive services against their will.
At the moment, people in England and Wales are treated under the Mental Health Act 1983. The Government has been planning new mental health legislation since 1998. This was for two reasons:
- Parts of the current 1983 Act are not compatible with the Human Rights Act;
- Concerns had been expressed about ‘loopholes’ preventing dangerous people with personality disorders from being sectioned.
There is widespread agreement that the Act needs to be reformed. The Alliance believes that reform presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the rights, care and treatment for people with mental health problems.
The Government has abandoned its 2004 Draft Bill and scaled down its proposals for new mental health legislation. However, much of its policy agenda remains the same:
- A new broad definition of mental disorder - with the exclusions removed except for drug and alcohol dependency;
- The current treatability test will be deleted and replaced by an appropriate treatment test for all section 3 patients;
- 'Supervised Community Treatment' will be introduced - to be eligible patients must be under section 3
- There will be the automatic referrals to the Mental Health Review Tribunal for patients who have not exercised their right to appeal, initially at 6 months and brought forward as resources allow
- The nearest relative will remain as in the current Act but patients will be given greater powers to displace their nearest relative and appoint another person to perform this role;
- The Registered Medical Officer will be replaced by the clinical supervisor (which will be open to other professions);
- The Approved Social Worker role will be replaced by the Approved Mental Health Professional (which will be open to other professions);
- The Bill will include Bournewood safeguards (although no details have been given about content) which will amend the Mental Capacity Act;
- There will be no right to advocacy and this will be pursued via other means;
- The children's safeguards will not be in the Bill but will be introduced via different legislation;
- There will be no principles on the face of the Bill;
- Implementation is expected in 2008;
- There will be no consultation on the content of the Bill and the main discussions will be about the Code of Practice;
- There will be a Race Equality Impact Assessment on the Government's proposed amendments.