Since its introduction, many charities and mental health organisations have criticised the Mental Health Act as being outdated and not fit for purpose. There is now a dedicated movement campaigning for mental health act reform.
As well as protecting the physical well-being of their employees, employers in the UK also have a responsibility to care for the mental well-being of their staff. Being aware of the proposed changes to the Mental Health Act could prove invaluable should a co-worker require medical help with a serious mental health issue.
Why Do We Need to Reform the Mental Health Act?
The main criticism of the Mental Health Act is that it is out of date and does not currently meet international human rights standards. Critics maintain that the regulations detailed in the Mental Health Act do not adequately protect the rights of patients.
What is the Mental Health Act 1983?
The Mental Health Act 1983 was introduced to protect the rights of people dealing with mental health issues. The Mental Health Act provides legal guidelines on how and why a person can be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. It details the civil process of involuntary admittance to a psychiatric hospital and the treatment that would follow.
The Act formed the basis for the establishment of the Mental Health Commission and the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services. It provides regulations for Mental Health Tribunals that serve to review the involuntary detention of patients.
Key Points of the Mental Health Act
Key points of the Mental Health Act include:
- Patients have the right to quality mental health care
- Mental health workers must act to protect the rights of patients
- Mental health services must operate in accordance with regulations
- Patients who are voluntarily admitted can leave the hospital at any time
- If a voluntary patient is considered to be at risk of harming themselves or others, they can be held for 24 hours
- Patients who have been admitted on an involuntary basis must periodically have their detention reviewed by a Mental Health Tribunal
- All patients have the right to attend their own Mental Health Tribunal
What Are Some of The Gaps in the Current Mental Health Legislation?
One of the key changes that mental health act reform lobby groups have called for is the establishment of principles for the detention of children, with severe mental health issues.
Currently, if a child refuses mental health treatment, they can still be admitted, against their will, to a psychiatric hospital with their parent’s consent.
In practice, this means that young people under the age of 18 cannot either refuse or consent, to mental health care. It is believed that young people who are 16 and 17 years of age should have the right to refuse or consent to mental health care. Experts believe that the current legislation leaves vulnerable children at risk and does not provide safeguards for their treatment.
Additional issues that mental health groups have found with the Mental Health Act 1983 are:
- Patients who have been involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital do not have the right to have a say in how their treatment is provided
- No voluntary or involuntary patients currently have the right to demand an individual care plan or an individual recovery plan
- Voluntary patients do not have the right to receive information or advocacy services
When can we reform the Mental Health Act?
Mental health reform is happening now. Changes to the Mental Health Act are being put forth by the Sub-Committee on Mental Health. This process began in 2017 when then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, established an Independent Review of the Mental Health Act.
In 2018, Professor Sir Simon Wessely conducted the Independent Review and published a White Paper in 2021.
A Draft Bill was put forward in 2022. There were significant delays to the Draft Bill due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Are the Key Proposals Included in the Mental Health Act White Paper?
There are four principles that form the basis of the proposals included in the Mental Health Act White Paper:
- Patients must have greater choices and more autonomy
- The Act’s powers must be used in the least restrictive way possible
- Patients must receive greater therapeutic benefits so they can be discharged faster
- All patients must be viewed, respected, and treated as individuals
As such, the key proposals in the Mental Health Act White Paper are:
- Clearer and more stringent detention criteria for involuntary patients
- Detention must provide a therapeutic benefit to the patient
- Shorter detention periods for involuntary patients
- Patients should have the right to challenge detention
- Patients should have the right to choose and refuse treatment
- During the first year of detention, reviews should occur in the third, sixth, and twelfth months
- Patients should be given greater access to the Mental Health Tribunal
- Improved support for detained patients
- Increased powers for Independent Mental Health Advocates
- Updates to the conditions of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs)
- Enhancing the interface between the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act (MCA)
- Improved care for patients in the Criminal Justice System
Why the Proposed Mental Health Act Reform Matters
Anyone that is admitted to a psychiatric hospital is in a vulnerable position. And their rights must be protected. One of the main aims of the Mental Health Act was to stop the exploitation of people suffering from mental health issues. It was to ensure that they received proper care and fair treatment.
However, if the Mental Health Act fails to adequately protect patients, it must be reformed.
Mental Health in the Workplace
If a colleague is undergoing a serious mental health problem, intervention by authorities may be necessary. In the event that a person is admitted to a psychiatric facility against their will, they may not fully understand what their rights are.
By being aware of the changes proposed by mental health act reform, organisations can assist you in helping someone to get treatment and empower you to provide them with the support they require.
It’s not always easy for people to discuss mental health issues. But employers and employees can work together, to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. You can check a detailed infographic on “General Anxiety Disorder” to understand some of the symptoms of mental health problems.
Mental health awareness training will ensure that you and your team understand the significance of mental health issues and know what to do if someone is in trouble.
How to Improve Mental Health Awareness in Your Workplace
The Human Focus mental health awareness training gives participants the skills to better manage their own mental health. Trainees will learn how to recognise the signs of mental health problems in themselves and others, and how to provide assistance. All courses are available to be taken in segments online.
Sign up for the RoSPA assured Mental Health online courses from Human Focus today and begin creating a healthier, happier workplace.