17th April 2018

The Government has commissioned an independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983. The review is due to be published in autumn 2018 and has been described as ‘welcome’ as the current Act is thought to be ‘outdated and not in line with the principles of modern health care’. The Act has also been described as discriminatory as physical and mental health problems are not treated equally by the law. The Act allows for patients to be detained in hospital and treated against their will. Theresa May has said that the review is intended to ‘tackle the longstanding injustices of discrimination in our mental health system once and for all’.

Patients who have been sectioned can appeal to the Tribunal and Hospital Managers to have their section discharged. Usually patients have to apply themselves or use a legal advisor. The Law Society feels that patients should be referred to the Tribunal during or at the end of every period of detention. The Law Society has also suggested that patients who lack capacity to appoint a legal representative should have one appointed to them in Hospital Managers’ Hearings.

The charity Mind has said ‘people who are at their most unwell need choice, control and dignity and legislation needs to support that’. Currently the Mental Health Act does not allow detained patients to have a choice. Mental Health patients who have been detained can be treated for 3 months before a second opinion is required. The Law Society is suggesting that treatment without a patient’s consent should only be given with a second opinion and that in an emergency the treatment should be reviewed within seven days.

A Mental Health Alliance survey found that a majority agreed that it is sometimes necessary for the protection of others and for the patient’s own safety to treat someone against their wishes. However further exploration into the circumstances is necessary.

The Centre for Mental Health – a specialist charity – has said that the Act is disproportionately used with people from minority ethnic communities. The review is intended to see how far the Act is used to detain rather than treat. The Government does expect that the Act will require reform but feels that the solutions will lie more in practice than in legislation.

With the increasing amount of patients being detained under the Mental Health Act, mental health services are under a lot of scrutiny. Charities like Mind and Centre for Mental Health have said that to ensure a thorough review, the involvement of people with experience of the Act will be required. We eagerly await the review and any recommended changes.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist Mental Health Solicitors who can help with issues surrounding Mental Health law. To speak to a solicitor please contact us on 0191 275 2626 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk.