Department of Health Starts Consultation on Mental Health Act Code of Practice

The Department of Health has opened a consultation on the Code of Practice: Mental Health Act 1983 (“Act”).

The Code is intended to provide guidance to mental health professionals and others who fall under the Act to ensure that they act in accordance with the law. It also provides information on the rights of people who are detained under the Act.

The consultation includes several proposed changes, including:

  • Five new guiding principles designed to be considered when making decisions in relation to care, support, or treatment provided under the Act.
  • An updated chapter 19 on children and young people, in order to provide professionals and practitioners with improved information and clarity.  In particular it includes updated information on the use of restraint and seclusion.
  • A new chapter 3 on equality, human rights and health inequalities.
  • A new chapter 13 focusing on the Act’s interface with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and DoLS.
  • A new chapter 34 regarding the Care Programme Approach
  • A new chapter 40, detailing support for victims.
  • Generally improving clarity and ease of use for patients, families, carers, and non-mental health professionals

The department of Health recognises that the current Code has sometimes been inconsistently applied, misunderstood, or ignored. The intention is for the revised code to help provide better patient protection and reflect legal changes and healthcare developments since its last revision in 2008.

Norman Lamb, Minister for Care and Support, addressed the necessity for a revised Code of Practice:

“We know that the Care Quality Commission’s annual report into the application of the Act indicates that across the country, the code has not been consistently applied, can be misunderstood, or ignored altogether. We are reminded by the failings at Winterbourne View Hospital, where over two thirds of patients were at one point detained under the Act, of the potential consequences when this happens.”

“The present code was introduced in 2008, since when there have been substantial changes and updates in legislation, policy, and professional practice. The department of Health is consulting on proposed changes to the Code to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.”

Regarding the consultation, the Department of Health stated, “We aim to increase awareness of the Code and make it easier to understand for those who are using it, especially individuals subject to the Act, their families and carers. A new Code, reference guide and ‘easy read’ version will be published by April 2015.”

The consultation is open until 12 September 2014, and can be viewed HERE. The revised Code is intended to come into force on 15 April 2015.

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