Independent review of the Mental Health Act
Why has the Prime Minister called this review?
At Conservative Party Conference the Prime Minister restated her
commitment to “tackling the injustice and stigma associated with
mental health”. The government has noted concern about:
rising rates of detention under the act
the disproportionate number of people from black and minority
ethnicities detained under the act
whether some processes relating to the Act are in line with a
modern mental health system.
In the last ten years detentions under the Mental Health Act
have risen 47% from 43,361 in 2005/6 to 63,622 in 2015/16. (Source:
Compared to white patients, black patients are 53.8% more likely
to be detained under the Mental Health Act and Asian patients are
42.4% more likely to be detained.
Rates of detention across the whole adult population is over
four times higher for black people, compared to white people, and
around two times higher in the entire BME population. (Source:
What is the remit of the review?
In the Queen’s speech (June
2017) the Government committed to reviewing the mental health
legislative landscape and to publish policy recommendations
intended to “provide greater rights for those experiencing mental
health problems so they can live lives free from
The Cabinet Office and Department of Health have stated that the
review will look at:
why rates of detention are increasing and what can be done to
reduce inappropriate detention and improve how different agencies
respond to people in crisis
reasons for the disproportionate number of people from certain
ethnic backgrounds, in particular black people, being detained
under the act, and what should be done about it.
The review will make recommendations to government which aim to
improve the treatment and support received by people experiencing
mental ill-health. These recommendations should be practice-based
where possible. See the
full terms of reference for the review.
Who will lead the review?
The Prime Minister confirmed that the independent review will be
chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, past president of the Royal
College of Psychiatrists, who will have overall responsibility for
the review and its outputs. Vice-chairs will also be appointed.
The review will appoint an advisory panel to ensure that service
users, carers and other stakeholders are involved in forming its
Will the review cover all of the UK?
No. The review will consider the functioning of the Mental
Health Act 1983, which applies only in England and Wales.
The recommendations made by the review will apply to England
(relating to health matters, which are devolved) and to England and
Wales (for non-devolved matters, including justice).
What is the time frame of the independent review?
The review will produce an interim report with priorities for
the review’s work in early 2018, and a final report with detailed
recommendations on its priorities, by autumn
What is the Mental Health Act and when is it used?
The Mental Health Act provides legal authority for people with
mental illness to be admitted to hospital and treated in England
and Wales. The current Act was passed in 1983 and was last reviewed
in 2007. Use of the Act can save lives but it can mean that people
are given treatment against their wishes.
Detentions under the Mental Health Act are made when someone has
a mental illness in need of assessment of treatment for the sake of
their health or safety or that of others. When someone experiences
a mental health crisis like this they are at their most
People who are subject to the Mental Health Act have certain
rights including the right to appeal and the right to support from
Why are detentions rising?
We don’t know for certain why detentions under the Mental
Health Act are rising. We have been concerned about the
rising numbers of detention and the disproportionate detentions of
people from ethnic minorities and believe the underlying
circumstances for this should be thoroughly reviewed.
Providing earlier support can stop people from reaching a mental
health crisis in the first place. It is important that the review
explores the wider context which the Act operates in and thoroughly
considered all the related factors, including the mental health,
care and social support system, before actions or legislative
change are recommended.
How will the College be involved in this review?
The Royal College of Psychiatrists welcomes the Prime Minister’s
announcement of a review of mental health law as this can be a
significant opportunity to improve mental health care in England
In August 2017 RCPsych President Wendy Burn launched a
survey to gauge opinion of members in England and
Wales in anticipation the Independent Review of the Mental
Health Act 1983. It was intended that the results of the survey would
help inform the College’s engagement with the Review.
The College is keen to work with the review to provide expertise
and experience in order to provide better support for those with
mental health needs.
Changing mental health law could have a profound impact on the
rights of many vulnerable people who have the right to the best
possible care and support so it is essential that Government
consults widely with patients, carers and clinicians and listens to
their views. The College will work with the Mental Health
Alliance, a coalition of patient groups, charities, professional
bodies, and civil society organisations to ensure that this
Help and advice for those
experiencing mental health difficulties and for their friends,
family and carers is
We have set up an email address, MentalHealthActReview@rcpsych.ac.uk,
in order for all members to be able to give their thoughts on the