Centre for Mental Health welcomes draft Mental Health Bill

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“Modernising the Mental Health Act is an essential step in making mental health services more effective, equitable and compassionate,” Centre for Mental Health chief executive Dr Sarah Hughes said today.

Welcoming the publication of the draft Mental Health Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny, Sarah Hughes said: “The Mental Health Act is an important piece of legislation that has a profound effect on people’s lives. The Act can save lives, but it can also traumatise people and cause lifelong harm. The year on year rise in the use of coercion and the starkly disproportionate use among people from racialised communities has to stop.

“We are pleased that the new bill draws very strongly on the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act. By placing more checks on the use of coercion and more safeguards for people to make choices and secure their rights, it can help to modernise services and ensure people are treated with dignity and respect. Limiting the use of community treatment orders should also help to reduce the coercive impact of the Act on people when they leave hospital.

“We welcome the proposed new 28-day waiting time for someone to be transferred from prison to hospital. Too many people are still made to wait for too long for a bed. We will be scrutinising the detail of the bill to ensure that this opportunity to reform the system is taken to its fullest effect.

“We welcome the Government’s decision to prevent the use of Section 3 of the Act on people who are autistic or have a learning disability but do not have a mental health condition. If this provision is coupled with investment in community services for neurodiverse people, it can bring about an end to the use of the Mental Health Act to keep people in hospital for prolonged periods.

“Changing the Mental Health Act is an important step on the road to modernising mental health services. But it cannot be achieved in isolation. As the Independent Review pointed out, it also requires investment in community mental health services so that fewer people need hospital care. It needs urgent action to replace worn out and unsafe facilities. And it needs concerted and sustained action to tackle systemic racism and discrimination in and around mental health services.

“We hope that pre-legislative scrutiny will be an opportunity to build consensus around the changes that are needed to the Mental Health Act to ensure that we do not lose time in modernising the law and applying the important principles in the draft bill in practice.”

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