Mental Health Act: Proposals are welcome, but should go further and action must be prioritised

13 January 2021

Reform of the Mental Health Act is long overdue. This is a once in a generation opportunity to strengthen people’s rights so that they have much more influence and control over their care and treatment.

Stephen Hinchley, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, VoiceAbility

Today, the government published a White Paper with its proposals to reform the Mental Health Act. This White Paper is urgently needed, and reform of the Mental Health Act is long overdue. VoiceAbility welcomes its publication and many of its proposals, which reflect the findings of the independent review of the Mental Health Act published in 2018.

In response to the publication of the White Paper, Stephen Hinchley, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at VoiceAbility said: 
 
This is a once in a generation opportunity to strengthen the rights of people who are in hospital because of mental ill health, so that they have much more influence and control over their care and treatment. It is vital that those with first-hand experience are heard loudest over the coming months as the government consults on reforms to the outdated Mental Health Act. 

We welcome proposals which go some way toward strengthening people’s rights through enhanced access to independent advocacy. However, these must go further. Many of these proposals will be subject to future spending decisions. Therefore, there is no guarantee that everyone will get the vital advocacy support to which they should be entitled. Increased access to advocacy means that people are better supported to have their rights respected and voices heard when facing a difficult and, at times, traumatic situation.

We also welcome the White Paper’s proposals that recognise the importance of community alternatives, which should mean fewer people in hospital when it is not the best place for them. The proposals for statutory Advance Choice Documents are another important initiative to give people more control over their treatment.

It has been over two years since Sir Simon Wessely published his review of the Mental Health Act and since then tens of thousands of people have spent time on mental health wards – for many of them this experience will not have been as therapeutic as it should have been. For them and for those who may experience mental ill health in the future, a new Mental Health Act cannot come soon enough. The government must move forward with reform at pace.” 


VoiceAbility will work together with people who have first-hand experience as a mental health in-patient, as well as our expert mental health advocates, in order to respond to the government’s public consultation.