Centre for Mental Health welcomes today’s report of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely. The report, Modernising the Mental Health Act, sets out a comprehensive and wide ranging set of recommendations to make the Mental Health Act work better for people.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said today: “The Mental Health Act plays such an important part in governing the way people are supported when they are most unwell. It gives the state powers to detain and treat people against their will, and as such it is vital that the Act is modernised to ensure people have their rights taken seriously at every stage and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect throughout.

It is vital that the Act is modernised to ensure people have their rights taken seriously at every stage

“The Mental Health Act we have today is in many ways outdated and paternalistic. The Review’s recommendations should go a long way to bringing the Act into the twenty-first century by ensuring people have more rights to say how they want to be treated, including by making advance decisions that professionals have to take more seriously. Its proposals to extend access to independent advocacy and restrict the use of community treatment orders should also help to put more limits on the use of coercion. And its recommendations for improved safeguards throughout the system should help to ensure that fewer people spend months and years in locked wards when they no longer need to be in hospital.

“The report makes important recommendations to tackle longstanding inequalities in the use of the Act, particularly among people from African and Caribbean communities and other minority ethnic groups who continue to be disproportionately subject to compulsory powers. It is vital that the review’s recommendations for race equality are implemented in full as part of a much wider effort to tackle racism and discrimination at every level in our society.

The Review’s recommendations should go a long way to bringing the Act into the twenty-first century by ensuring people have more rights to say how they want to be treated

“It also makes important recommendations to ensure people in prison are transferred to hospital more quickly. We know that too many prisoners are made to wait for weeks and months for treatment when they are acutely unwell.

“The report’s recommendations in sum should ensure that the Mental Health Act is better governed, that people’s rights are respected and that fewer people are subject to compulsory powers and for less time. It is therefore essential that its recommendations are implemented in full in order to achieve the level of change we know is needed to modernise the Mental Health Act.”