William Eichler 10 May 2022

Queen’s Speech: Mental health laws to be overhauled

Queen’s Speech: Mental health laws to be overhauled  image
Image: Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock.com.

The Government has confirmed that it will seek to reform mental health laws to make it harder to detain people with autism and to stop the disproportionate use of the laws against people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Today’s Queen’s Speech, delivered by Prince Charles, included confirmation of the draft Mental Health Bill which aims to transform the mental health system in England and Wales and give greater choice and autonomy for patients in a mental health crisis.

Drawing on the recommendations set out in the review of the Mental Health Act 1983, chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, the draft Mental Health Bill aims to reduce the number of people being detained under the current laws in England and Wales.

In 2020-21, 53,239 new detentions under the Mental Health Act were recorded, but the overall national totals will be higher, according to NHS Digital.

The draft bill states that learning disabilities and autism will no longer be classed as mental health disorders. This means that people with learning disabilities and autism will no longer be detained under the Mental Health Act.

The reforms also aim to tackle the disproportionate number of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities detained under the Mental Health Act. Black people are over four times more likely to be detained and over 10 times more likely to be subject to a community treatment order.

Commenting on the Queen's Speech, Vicki Nash, head of policy, campaigns and public affairs with the mental health charity Mind, said: 'We welcome the Government's commitment to a new Mental Health Bill. Being sectioned is one of the most serious things that can happen to somebody experiencing a mental health problem.

'Over 53,000 people were detained under the existing Mental Health Act in England in 2020/21 – an increase of 4% on the year before. As these numbers continue to rise, we urgently need to see the UK Government implement the long-overdue legislative changes needed to give people greater choice and control over their treatment

'In most cases, people are detained under the Mental Health Act against their will because they didn't get the right help when they needed it. Black people are hardest hit, with higher rates of detention and practices that restrict their liberty, including face-down restraint, which can be fatal.

'We need the new Mental Health Bill to change this And we must see more investment in early intervention to reduce the number of people becoming unwell in the first place. Mental health problems become more difficult to treat if left unchecked, as well as more costly to the NHS.'

The Government has also said it will publish England’s first ever Women’s Health Strategy this year.

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