On 19 January 2023, the Joint Committee published its final report on the draft Mental Health Bill 2022. The draft Bill was introduced following the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983 (“MHA”) which was chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely in 2018. The Review made recommendations in relation to addressing the increase in numbers of people detained under the MHA, especially for ‘black or black British’ people who were found to be four times more likely to be detained than people from ‘any white background’. The draft Bill aims to introduce more choice, accountability and oversight to the use of the MHA.
The Joint Committee was tasked with considering whether the daft Bill would ensure that fewer people were detained against their wishes, promote patient choice, address racial inequalities and end the long-term detention of people with learning disabilities and autistic people under the MHA.
Some of the key recommendations from the report are set out below:
- That the four principles identified by the Independent Review; choice and autonomy; least restriction; therapeutic benefit, and the person as an individual should be included on the face of the Bill.
- The Government should publish a detailed plan for resourcing and implementation on the introduction of the Bill and be required to report annually on progress during the implementation period.
- The creation of a Mental Health Commissioner to drive the ongoing process of reform and ensure accountability for implementation.
- There should be a ‘Responsible Person’ for each health organisation. Their role will involve collecting and publishing data on, as well as overseeing policies to address racial and ethnic inequalities.
- A statutory right to culturally appropriate advocacy should be established.
- The grounds on which someone can be detained for assessment and treatment should not include consideration of “how soon” harm might occur. The changes in detention criteria should be consistent across Part II and Part III of the MHA.
- Implementation of community care improvements and stronger safeguards against inappropriate detention will be vital for people with autism and learning disabilities to prevent them from being detained in inappropriate mental health facilities.
- The Government should consider amending the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards so that they cannot be used as an alternative route to the MHA for people with a Learning Disability or Autism.
- The Government should re-consider the inclusion of other specific disorders under the Liberty Protection Safeguards in this context in future, such as dementia.
The Joint Committee hopes that its recommendations will help to strengthen the draft Bill. The Government now has two months to consider the recommendations.