What the government’s new Mental Health Bill really means – and why it matters

The draft bill has been met with celebration by mental health charities – but some have raised concerns over how the bill intends to address the disproportionate use of detention against Black people.

The government will invest £150 million into NHS mental health services over the next three years in a bid to improve patient care, it was announced yesterday (27 June).

The reforms, which were laid out in the government’s draft Mental Health Bill, are based on the recommendations of a 2019 review of the 1983 Mental Health Act, which recommended that patients be given more choices when it comes their care.

The draft bill, which will now be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny, also puts greater focus on how services can support patients in crisis outside of an A&E setting, and enhance patient safety and autonomy inside mental health units.  

It also dedicates £7m to providing the NHS with a series of ‘mental health ambulances’ to stop what it calls the “inappropriate use” of police cars to take people to hospital, and lays out plans to tackle inequality within services, especially when it comes to racial disparities.

Speaking about the bill, the Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid described the draft publication as a “significant moment”.

“We’re investing more money to ensure NHS patients have tailored services and support, so people in a mental health emergency get the right care at the right time,” he said.

“Our reforms to the outdated Mental Health Act are another important milestone in better supporting those with serious mental health issues and giving people greater control over their treatment, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds who are disproportionately detained under the Act.” 

The reform will give patients more choice over their care.

However, some charities have expressed concerns that the draft bill doesn’t contain enough details about how the government plans to address these inequalities, particularly in regards to the disproportionate number of Black people being detained or placed under community treatment orders (CTOs); in the year to March 2019, Black people were most likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act, with 321.7 detentions per 100,000 people.

Responding to the publication, Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said the draft bill was a “watershed moment for mental health in the UK” – but made it clear that more work needs to be done to ensure the bill does what it intends to do.

“We’re particularly pleased to see measures which will give people receiving care under the Act more say over how they are treated and allow a nominated person to exercise certain rights on their behalf,” Farmer said. 

“The new proposed duty on clinicians to consider the person’s wishes and feelings and to involve them in the decision-making process, before deciding whether to treat them under the Act, should help to focus clinical decision-making on a patient’s wishes.”

However, he continued: “The draft legislation will need scrutiny in some particular areas, where we believe the UK government could go further in addressing issues to make sure the law is fair and equitable for all, especially in reducing racial inequalities. As the Bill goes into pre-legislative scrutiny, we will hope to see these issues addressed.

“In particular, we’d like the UK government to review the use of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), which are coercive, don’t reduce readmissions and are disproportionately applied to Black people.” 

In a similar statement, Mark Winstanley, chief executive of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, called the bill a “cause for celebration,” but acknowledged that ensuring the bill delivers on all its aims would be a “collective challenge”.

“Further to the contribution of thousands of people with lived experience and colleagues across the sector, we will finally have a Mental Health Act fit for the 21st century,” Winstanley said. “It will give people more choice, dignity, and involvement in their care.”

The bill will now be scrutinised by a parliamentary select committee before the government publishes the final version.  

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and services.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected] In a crisis, call 999.

Images: Getty

Source: Read Full Article