Mental Health Act white paper signals reform

13 January 2021

The government will today unveil a white paper, setting out its plans to reform the Mental Health Act. This will be the first time the act has significantly changed since 1983. 

Here's the reaction of our CEO Mark Winstanley to the news:

“The publication of the White Paper to reform the Mental Health Act is a hugely significant milestone in a long struggle for change. The White Paper sets out a vision and direction for the reform of mental health inpatient services, law and practice. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Many people will take for granted their right to have choice and control over the medical treatment they receive. But thousands of people every year who are severely affected by mental illness and who are detained under the Act lose those rights and temporarily their liberty. The proposals set out in the White Paper, all informed by the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, give real hope for a more person-centred and principled Mental Health Act.

“Specifically, we're pleased to see a clear emphasis on improving outcomes for the disproportionately high number of Black people and people from other ethnic minorities who are detained under the Act. We're also pleased with increased patient involvement in treatment plans, improved carer and family involvement, and greater legal weight for advance decision-making.

“Despite its faults, the Mental Health Act is a lifesaving piece of legislation. It protects people when they are very unwell. But now nearly 40 years old, it is desperately out of date and doesn’t reflect how a modern society thinks about mental illness. The White Paper is a big step towards change. In the coming days and weeks we will be encouraging people that have been affected by the Act or who may be in future to respond to the consultation, and will be engaging with our supporters and beneficiaries in the hope of seeing major reform to the Mental Health Act in the near future.”