21 April 2021

Today, we submitted our response to the government’s consultation on reforming the Mental Health Act (MHA).

In January 2021, the UK Government published a White Paper setting out reform proposals intended to tackle issues with the MHA. Our submission works through some of the key human rights issues associated with the reform proposals, amplifying the voices of the people we work with and setting out what’s required for these reforms to ensure the human rights protections of people and their loved ones accessing or trying to access mental health services.  

Our submission is clear:

  • The 2017-2018 Review of the Mental Health Act (MHA) in England and Wales shone a spotlight on human rights issues that the people we work with have lived experience of.

  • To have real impact on the rights of those accessing/trying to access mental health services, the proposals must be properly implemented, staff fully supported and adequate funding provided.

  • The guiding principles are welcomed, but it is essential that these principles are not just referred to on paper (the Act and the Code of Practice) but are fully implemented throughout all mental health services (and other services such as physical health care, police etc).

  • The pre-existing human rights legal duties must be properly imbedded into the planned reform of the Mental Health Act, on paper and in practice. Our submission sets out recommendations for this.

Click the image below to read our submission or click here.


What is the consultation?

The Reforming the Mental Health Act consultation was opened by the government in January 2021 to ask people about their views on the government’s proposals for changing the Mental Health Act. The proposals follow the government’s White Paper which showed that there are lots of issues with how the Mental Health Act is working.

Find out more about the Mental Health Act consultation process and the government’s suggestions for reform in our plan language Explainer, available here.


Our response

Our submission, grounded in evidence from people accessing/trying to access mental health services and staff from those services, shows that:

  • 90% of people who responded to our research said that they agreed with the four guiding principles, but many suggestions were given on what else should be included or was missed, including respect for human rights, empowerment and more choice.

  • 61% of people said that the plans to include these principles in the MHA and the MHA Code of Practice was good but not good enough. This rose to 90% amongst people who are accessing, have accessed or are trying to access mental health services. Suggestions for where else these principles should be included are: in staff training and inductions, on care plans and visibly in hospitals.

  • 79% of people said that including information about human rights in the Mental Health Act will help make sure that staff think about human rights.

  • 43% of people thought that the plans to change Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) did not protect the right to liberty, 33% were not sure.

  • 37% of people thought that the plans to create the “Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework (PCREF)”, the development of culturally appropriate advocacy for people of all ethnic backgrounds and the plans to change CTO’s did not protect the right to be free from discrimination, 40% were not sure.

  • On introducing statutory ‘Advance Choice Documents’, implementing the right for an individual to choose a ‘Nominated Person’ and expanding the role of ‘Independent Mental Health Advocates’, 39% of people thought this does not protect the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (22% were not sure) and 18% thought this did not protect the right to be private and family life (58% were not sure).

Together with NSUN (the National Survivor User Network) we ran interactive evidence gathering sessions and an online (Easy Read) survey giving people the opportunity to share their views and experiences of working with the Act or accessing mental health services. Our submission amplifies these voices:

  1. People: People accessing (or trying to) access mental health services, or who have previously accessed mental health services and their family members and people who care about them.

  2. Staff working in mental health: People with legal duties to respect and protect rights. This includes those working in mental health services (including private, charitable, or voluntary bodies) and advocates and campaigners working in the area of mental health.


Our recommendations

See the image below for our recommendations, or read them in our full submission, available here.

Want to know more about human rights?

We’re creating a new hub with easy read explainers on the 16 rights in the Human Rights Act. Click the image below to access the hub, or click here.

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