New health & social care system must protect rights of people detained under Mental Health Act

Release Date: 11 June 2012

Source: Mental Health Foundation

Country: United Kingdom

Clinical commissioning groups and local authorities must ensure that they uphold the rights of people detained under the Mental Health Act as they take up new responsibilities, according to a report published today by the Mental Health Alliance.

The Mental Health Act 2007: a review of its implementation examines key issues in the operation of the Mental Health Act five years on. It finds that while there have been some improvements in the treatment of people detained under the Act there remain major concerns about the use of compulsory powers and the availability of advocacy and support for the most vulnerable people.

The report finds that the provision of independent mental health advocacy and new laws protecting children from being placed in adult inpatient wards have been significant changes for the better. The report warns, however, that the high use of community treatment orders and a rise in the numbers of detained patients are increasing the overall use of compulsion. It also notes that Black and minority ethnic communities are disproportionately placed in both with scant provision of specialist advocacy services to reflect their needs.

The report also examines the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards scheme for people who lack capacity and are detained in care homes or hospitals. It finds that the scheme works well in some areas but its implementation has been extremely uneven, can be highly bureaucratic and leaves some people without the protection they need.

The report calls on health and local government commissioners to ensure that they are providing adequate mental health advocacy services for their whole communities. It also calls for action to address the high use of community treatment orders and a government review of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards scheme.

Mental Health Alliance chair Alison Cobb said: “The 2007 Mental Health Act made some far-reaching changes to the laws governing the treatment of people with mental health conditions in England and Wales. While some of these have brought about improvements in the way people are treated we have seen a worrying rise in the use of compulsion over the last five years and a lack of adequate safeguards for people’s rights in some places.

“The Health and Social Care Act creates new structures that will take responsibility for the operation of the Mental Health Act. It is vital that they give these a high priority to ensure that the need to use compulsory powers is reduced and that no one's rights are overlooked.”