In October 2017, the Government commissioned Sir Simon Wessely to lead an independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983. This followed concerns about high rates of detention under the Act and the disproportionate use of the Act among people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.
The Department of Health and Social Care asked the independent review to make recommendations for improvement in the following areas:
- rising rates of detention under the act
- the disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnicities detained under the act
- stakeholder concerns that some processes relating to the act are out of step with a modern mental health system.
The review’s report, published in December 2018, recommended reforming the Act “to rebalance the system to be more responsive to the wishes and preferences of the patient, to take more account of a person's rights, and to improve as much as possible the ability of patients to make choices even when circumstances make this far from easy.”
The Government initially accepted two recommendations:
- introducing statutory advance choice documents, so that people’s wishes and preferences carry far more legal weight,
- creating a new ‘nominated person’ role, chosen by the patient to support them, to replace the current nearest relative provisions.
In June 2019, the Government accepted further recommendations to tackle the disproportionate number of people from BAME groups who are detained under the Act, and further steps to end the use of police stations as a place of safety.
A white paper - Reforming the Mental Health Act was published in January 2021. It set out a package of reforms which build on recommendations made by the review in 2018. Following a consultation period, which the Mental Health Network participated in, the draft legislation was published in June 2022.
A joint committee of parliamentarians has been convened to undertake the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill and has invited written evidence submissions.