Review of the Mental Health Act 1983

The Mental Health Act 1983 covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health disorder.

An independent review of the act was carried out in 2018. It recommended making sure:

  • mental health patients’ views and choices are respected
  • the act's powers are used in the least restrictive way
  • patients are given the support they need so that they can be discharged from the act
  • patients are viewed and treated as individuals

The government has since published a white paper and draft bill, setting out its plans for reform.

The draft bill has been examined by a committee of MPs and peers who published a report in January 2023 with recommendations on how the bill could be strengthened.

The next step is for the government to consider these recommendations and then formally introduce the bill to parliament.

The timetable for this is unclear.

Our view

We also pointed out that policy makers would need to consider how the Mental Health Act 1983 and Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 overlap.

We've highlighted the need for reform to uphold the rule of law and ensure access to justice, by allowing people to challenge inappropriate treatment.

One of our priorities is for the Mental Health Tribunal – which decides whether a patient can be discharged from hospital – to have what it needs to take on the additional responsibilities the government is proposing.

What this means for solicitors

The government published its white paper on reforming the Mental Health Act on 13 January 2021.

Proposals to increase the Mental Health Tribunal's role and powers, such as increasing the frequency of patients’ referrals to the tribunal, will have significant resourcing implications.

The Joint Committee of MPs and Peers examining the draft bill have called on the government to publish an implementation and workforce plan alongside the bill, with a statutory duty to report annually to parliament on the progress against milestones.

What we're doing

  • November 2022 – the chair of our Mental Health and Disability Committee gave oral evidence to the Joint Committee
  • August 2022 – we submitted written evidence to the Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill
  • June 2022 – the government published its draft Mental Health Bill
  • April 2021 – we responded to the white paper on reforming the Mental Health Act
  • December 2018 – we responded to the publication of the independent review
  • January 2018 – we gave evidence to the independent review. We made several recommendations, including shorter detention periods, specific safeguards for children receiving in-patient psychiatric care and an urgent review of the use of community treatment orders

Get involved

If you'd like to get involved in our work on this topic, you can find out more about our Mental Health and Disability Committee.

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