The Mental Health Act is a critical piece of legislation that governs how people severely affected by mental illness can be treated including when they are detained in hospital and/or treated against their will.  

For Rethink Mental Illness, the reform of the Mental Health Act isn’t just the culmination of several years of campaigning, research, and working with our friends across the mental health sector. It’s also the beginning of a transition towards meaningful change in the care and treatment of people living with severe mental illness who are detained under the act. 

What’s happening now? 

Despite promising to deliver desperately needed reform of the Mental Health Act, we were deeply disappointed when this reform was dropped by the government, as they did not include the Mental Health Bill in the most recent King's Speech.

We will keep campaigning until we see a Mental Health Act that better supports people detained under it.

The draft Mental Health Bill 

Rethink Mental Illness welcomed the publishing of the draft Mental Health Bill in 2022, this includes an easy read version. The Mental Health Act is a critical piece of legislation that has a significant impact on people’s lives. The Government published a draf

The Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill was also established to undertake-pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill. The Committee released a call for evidence and survey seeking views on how the draft Bill could be improved. 

Rethink Mental Illness has submitted a response to the call for evidence. The response was informed by consultation with experts by experience, as well as other key mental health organisations. 

The Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill considered Rethink Mental Illness’s response along with those of many other organisations and individuals with experience of the Mental Health Act. 

The Committee published a report with its recommendations for the Bill in January 2023. Read our response here.  

To produce our response to the Committee, we have drew on previous work, including our substantial involvement in the 2018 Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, for which we campaigned, participated in the steering group and multiple topic groups, and facilitated participation of people with lived experience. 

A key issue emerging from the 2018 Independent Review and our engagement with experts by experience, is that patients are often not treated with kindness and respect. This undignified treatment often worsens their mental illness, increases fear and distrust, and risks further admissions and/or disengagement with care.  

It is both vital and realistic to expect the draft Mental Health Bill to provide people severely affected by mental illness with greater control over their care and treatment, and that this will support their sense of respect and dignity during challenging and confusing times in their lives. 

For the Mental Health Bill to be effective, more investment and change to the mental health system is needed. Significant funding for inpatient, community care and early intervention is needed. 

The Mental Health Bill does not go far enough in addressing racial inequalities. One of our key recommendations for improving the Bill is that principles must be included on the face of the Act with the fourth principle extended to: “Treat the person as an individual – ensuring patients are viewed and treated as individuals, including taking into account the patient’s race and other protected characteristics to ensure prejudice or racism do not feature in the approach.” 

You can read our full response to the call for evidence here.

Timeline and key reports