Today, the Government has published the Reforming the Mental Health Act White Paper. It will bring mental health laws into the 21st century by reforming the 40-year old Mental Health Act – delivering on a key manifesto commitment. This is something that will directly benefit the lives of many here in Bournemouth West, both for patients and families.
We want to ensure our health service works for all and that we deliver parity between mental and physical health services. These reforms will rightly see people not just as patients, but as individuals, with rights, preferences, and expertise, who are able to rely on a system which supports them and only intervenes proportionately, and which has their health and wellbeing as its centre. This is a significant moment in how we support those with serious mental health issues, which will give people more autonomy over their care and will tackle disparities for all who access services, in particular for people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
These reforms will be shaped by four principles:
- Choice and autonomy – ensuring service users’ views and choices are respected
- Least restriction – ensuring the Act’s powers are used in the least restrictive way
- Therapeutic benefit – ensuring patients are supported to get better, so they can be discharged from the Act
- The person as an individual – ensuring patients are viewed and treated as rounded individuals
Some examples of how we will achieve these goals can be read below:
- We will provide patients with more choice and control over their treatment – ensuring it works for them. We will consult on a number of proposed changes including the introduction of ‘Advance Choice Documents’ – enabling people to express their wishes and preferences on their care when they are well, before the need arises for them to go into hospital – and the right to choose a ‘Nominated Person’ to look after their interests if they aren’t able to do so themselves. We are also looking to expand the role of ‘Independent Mental Health Advocates’ to offer a greater level of support and representation to every patient detained under the Act.
- We will ensure parity between mental health and physical health services – so everyone has access to the best healthcare. We are already investing over £400 million to eradicate dormitories in mental health facilities as part of our response to Sir Simon’s recommendations and our commitment to level up access to mental health services and rebuild better than before, so people admitted to hospital can receive care in a modern and genuinely therapeutic environment. High impact changes are already under way – including vital investment in the mental health estate, and work to pilot and develop the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework.
- We will tackle disparities for all who access services, in particular for people from minority ethnic backgrounds. Black people are over four times more likely to be detained under the Act and over ten times more likely to be subject to a Community Treatment Order – and we will tackle this disproportionate number by introducing a new national framework. This will be a practical tool which enables Mental Health Trusts to understand what steps it needs to take to improve Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities’ mental health outcomes. In addition, improved culturally appropriate advocacy services will be piloted where needed, so people from BAME backgrounds can be better supported by people who understand their needs.
- We will change the way people with a learning disability and autistic people are treated in law. A mental health inpatient setting is often not the best place to meet their specific needs – and our proposals set out that neither learning disability nor autism should be considered a mental disorder for which someone can be detained for treatment under Section 3 of the Act.
- We will improve the system for those with serious mental illnesses within the criminal justice system. Prisons should be places where offenders are punished and rehabilitated, not a holding pen for people whose primary issue is their mental health. We are therefore proposing a 28-day time limit to speed up the transfer of prisoners to hospital, ending unnecessary delays and ensuring they get the right treatment at the right time. We are also ending the outdated practice of using prisons as ‘places of safety’ for defendants with acute mental illness. Instead, judges will work with medical professionals to ensure defendants can always be taken directly to a healthcare setting from court.
I am confident that these changes, that have received large third-party approval, will serve to better support those who need mental health services the most and I look forward to Constituents in Bournemouth West gaining better care as a result. If you would like any more information on these changes, please get in touch via email at Conor.Burns.MP@Parliament.UK