Mental health network

Understanding the legislative landscape in mental health

Writing on a notepad

The Mental Health Network (MHN) have produced a briefing Horizon scanning: The legislative landscape in mental health aimed at bringing members up to speed on some of the legal developments relevant to mental health which have taken place in the last twelve months as well as some of the legislative proposals currently under consideration.


Key highlights

The briefing covers: 

  • The revised Mental Health Act Code of Practice.
  • Introduction of the Care Act 2014 – which brought into play the Statutory Duty of Candour and new safeguarding guidance.
  • Law reform proposals to reduce the use of police cells as places of safety.
  • The consultation proposals to replace Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) by a new system called “protective care”.
  • No voice unheard, no right ignored: A consultation for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions, which makes a number of proposals to change the Mental Health Act to improve people’s personal independence, choice and community provision.

Legislation alone is not the answer

In the report we recognize that the legal architecture needs to be robust and offer professionals clear guidance for implementation and provide safeguards to patients, families and carers. However we are clear that legislation alone is not the answer. There also needs to be appropriate provision.

We also make the case that many improvements to services could use and build upon existing frameworks, agreements, as well as legislation and partnership arrangements. We need to be clear how proposed changes in law will be implemented and that they will bring improved outcomes for people using and working in mental health services. 

Key recommendations and conclusions from the report

  • The Department of Health to review the Mental Health Act Code of Practice ‘one year on’ to identify implementation issues. The impact of changing DoLS needs to be fully understood and resourced appropriately.
  • Much greater consideration and consultation needs to be made of many of the new proposals put forward in the No voice unheard, no right ignored consultation.
  • The increase in Mental Health Act detentions needs to be researched to be fully understood.
  • There needs to be clarity about how Section 136 system pressures are reported.
  • Legislation alone is not the answer we need to be clear what outcomes will be achieved. 
  • Changes in law must be resourced to be translated into practice.

To share your views on any of the issues raised in this report please contact

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