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Ensure that those with mental illness are treated fairly

Last updated: 01:05pm 4 November 2019

We will also reform outdated laws to ensure that those with mental illness are treated fairly…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.57

Our verdict

The treatment of people with mental health conditions, from their hospital admission to the management of their property and affairs, is regulated by the Mental Health Act 1983. However, rising detention rates with a disproportionate number of patients from ethnic minorities prompted the government to modernise the law. This is a pledge to reform current mental health legislation to ensure that patients are treated fairly.

In October 2018, the government published Modernising the Mental Health Act, an independent review into the Mental Health Act 1983, which recommended measures to reduce inequality in mental health treatment. In December 2018, the government accepted  two of the recommendations, namely that detainees should be able to nominate a guardian, and to express their preferences for treatment and care.

Also, in May 2019, the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 became law, altering the rules around depriving a person of liberty if they lack “capacity to consent” (rules known as Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards – DoLS). The act was broadly welcomed although the NHS Providers group, expressed concerns that:

“the act reproduces the notoriously complex and poorly understood interface between DoLS and the Mental Health Act.”

In June 2019, the government confirmed its commitment to further reform, starting round-table talks on measures to end unequal mental health treatment, and the intention was reasserted in the October 2019 Queen’s speech.

The government commissioned a review into the Mental Health Act – accepting some of its recommendations – and has legislated to reform the law around detaining those with mental health issues. However, the broader reform process is ongoing, so for now this remains ‘in progress’. It will be updated to ‘done’ if a new mental health bill is passed, aimed at ensuring fair treatment for all.

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