6th December 2018

An 18-month Independent Review into the Mental Health Act 1983 has released some of its recommendations today.

The proposed changes include:

  • New rights for patients to legally challenge their treatment
  • More frequent opportunities to challenge detention
  • Legally binding advanced care plans so patients can express how they want to be treated if they are sectioned

The emphasis of the proposed reforms has been to focus on people detained under the Act being able to express their choices and preferences about how they want to be treated. The report heard from formerly detained patients who had suffered during their time in hospital, with some commenting that the period in hospital made them feel as though they had “lost their voice”.

Chair of the report, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, expressed that it was about time to bring the Act up to date. Commenting that the way we think about mental health and illness has changed dramatically since the Act was introduced.

Other proposed amendments include a recommendation for patients to have a right to choose a “nominated person” who would have control of the patient’s care and treatment. At present the law provides that the patient’s Nearest Relative holds this power. A patient’s “Nearest Relative” is defined by a statutory list of relatives and in order for a patient to change their legal Nearest Relative they must make an application to the County Court.

The report also recommended a reduction in the use of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs). CTOs have been increasingly on the rise since their introduction in 2008, with significantly more CTOs being issued than ended per year.

The proposals have had overwhelming support from Mental Health charities and the Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the review will be used to make changes to the legislation.

Blog by Sarah Purkis, Trainee Solicitor