RCPsych urges Government to ensure that racial inequalities are addressed in the Mental Health Act

Statement / comment
19 January 2023

Today the Joint Committee has published its detailed report on the Draft Mental Health Bill following a period of scrutiny of the draft legislation. The Joint Committee has examined the extent to which the draft Bill would ensure fewer people were detained against their wishes, promote patient choice, address racial inequalities and end the inappropriate long-term detention of people with learning disabilities and autistic people under the Act.

Commenting on the Report Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:

“The Joint Committee’s Report provides welcome scrutiny of the Draft Mental Health Bill. This is a landmark piece of legislation that provides significant opportunity to modernise the Mental Health Act (MHA) in England and Wales. 

“Mental health services are often vastly under-resourced already and current workforce constraints mean that changes to the Mental Health Act cannot be absorbed within the existing workforce. We are glad to see that the committee has placed a large emphasis on the workforce and resource implications of the reforms. We echo the committee’s recommendations that the final Bill should be accompanied by a revised impact assessment and that the UK Government should publish a comprehensive implementation and workforce plan alongside the Bill. 

“One of the primary reasons for the Review of the MHA was existing racial disparities existing within the operation of the current Act and we are pleased to see the committee urge the UK Government to strengthen efforts to tackle these in the Bill. We hope the UK Government accepts the recommendation that the Secretary of State be obliged to ensure that racial inequalities are addressed. 

“The recommendation that statutory advance choice documents be included in the Bill is very positive and will expand patient choice and autonomy and give patients from Black, Asian and other minoritised ethnic groups greater ability to input on how the care they receive works for them and their family.

“We welcome the committee’s recommendations aimed to limit any negative unforeseen consequences of the UK Government’s proposed changes to the detention criteria of patients with learning disability/autism. However, even with the addition of extra safeguards and a staged implementation there is further work to be done to prevent any negative impacts on vulnerable patients.  

“The recommendation that Community Treatment Orders are abolished from use on civil patients is a substantial change from both the Draft MHA Bill and the Independent Review. RCPsych will have to consider the implications of this change and how their retention for Part III patients will work in practice.

“The process of pre-legislative scrutiny, culminating in this report has been a highly encouraging one in which we have seen first-hand the forensic scrutiny that the Bill has been placed under and the extent to which patients and clinicians have been listened to. As the committee has expressed, mental health law reform is an ongoing process, one that must continue as we work towards a legislative framework that works for all. The Royal College of Psychiatrists calls on the UK Government to prioritise the careful consideration of this report’s recommendations and to introduce a Mental Health Bill in this session of Parliament.”

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