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Mental Health Act: What Proposed Government Changes Would Mean to Your Rights

By Principal Lawyer, Court of Protection

There is sadly a widespread lack of understanding of these complex and often debilitating health issues, which are often failed by the available mental health systems that are in place.

disability rights lawyer

Recent Insights Into Mental Health Care in England

When introducing the proposed Mental Health Treatment Bill, the Prime Minister spoke of ripping up the Mental Health Act, which governs how people with mental health are detained and treated in hospital.

Currently, here are 57 NHS trusts and 161 independent hospitals that provide mental health care for people under the Mental Health Act in England.

The Care Act enables social services and community mental health teams to provide full care and support-including preventative services, which can tackle deteriorating health - for people with mental health problems.

More than 63,000 people were detained under the Mental Health Act in 2014-15 according to the most recent independent research; this is an increase of 43 per cent compared with 2005-06.

The Care Quality Commission’s report, Monitoring the Mental Health Act, looks at how healthcare providers care for patients, and whether patients’ rights are being protected. The Care Quality Commission is an independent regulator of healthcare services. The findings of their 2015/16 report included 1,349 monitoring visits and meetings with 4,282 patients.

The report revealed “failings that may disempower patients, prevent people from exercising legal rights, and ultimately impede recovery or even amount to unlawful and unethical practice”.

There was no evidence of patient involvement in care planning in 29 per cent of records. In 10 per cent of plans, patients’ care needs had not been considered.

 

The Rights of Mental Health Patients

With the Prime Minister announcing the possibility of a law that ‘confronts discrimination and unnecessary detention’ in the future, we take a look at the difficulties faced in accessing care and support.

It is easy to see why problems in the mental health system need to be addressed when added to this are concerns about the disproportionate numbers of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds being detained under the Mental Health Act. Further to this, we are seeing  delayed discharges from hospital and a system creating greater numbers of ‘informal patients’ deprived of appropriate care.

 

 

What Would Proposed Government Changes Mean For Mental Health Patients?

The bill would improve and raise awareness of mental health in schools and the workplace. Safeguards would be introduced to end rules that mean those who are detained can be treated against their will. Those with the capacity to give or refuse consent would be able to do so.

Whilst improvements in services are essential, it is difficult to see how meaningful change can be effected in an imperfect system and those in need of help and support don’t have access to a fully funded service linked to an equally funded health and social care system.

These improvements must focus on mental health care taking place in the community to prevent the cycle of regular detention in hospital.

The Care Act enables social services and community mental health teams to provide full care and support-including preventative services, which can tackle deteriorating health - for people with mental health problems.

Whilst we all consider mental health issues, it is, as ever, important to remember the care and support available to those in need under the Care Act and the legal powers social services and mental health teams have to provide that care despite continuing arguments about funding, budget cuts and austerity.

For a consultation with a human rights solicitor, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

Richard Copson is a principal lawyer in Slater and Gordon’s court of protection team, specialising in mental capacity law, disability rights and human rights law.

disability rights, Mental Health Discrimination, human rights solicitor

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