Responses to review of the Mental Health Act

By Bernadette Meaden
May 1, 2018

The Independent Review of the Mental Health Act interim report was published by the government on 1 May 2018. Responding to the report, Alun Thomas, Chief Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said, “We welcome the interim report as the first step in recognising key problems with the Mental Health Act. It is vital that politicians listen.

“As a service user and carer-led charity we are well aware of the issues: the Mental Health Act as it currently stands does not give people the rights, dignity and respect that they deserve.

“We strongly support the aim of giving service users greater autonomy and full involvement in care planning. In Wales, with our devolved legislation, service users have the right to a comprehensive care plan. However, our experience has been that the quality of many of these plans has been inadequate, and that service users, as well as carers and families, have been insufficiently involved in producing them.

“Having opened our own mental health hospital in 2017 we are also keenly aware of the need for a change of culture in hospitals. Our Gellinudd Recovery Centre places patients at the heart of their care, as they lead both the service and their own recovery. This culture of empowerment simply isn’t present in the majority of hospital settings, even though giving patients dignity and status is extremely beneficial to their recovery. We would welcome the advisory panel to come and visit our hospital and see what can be achieved by giving patients the dignity they deserve.

“With regard to rising detention rates, our experience has been that reduced support in the community, due to specialist mental health services being replaced by generic services, has led to an increased number of detentions – and this is an area which demands particular attention.

“Finally, the interim report recognises that service users are left too long in prison when they should be in hospital. We provide many criminal justice services across Wales, and our concern is that people with a mental illness are not diverted from the system effectively, with devastating consequences. This is a particularly vulnerable group which should be robustly supported by the review.

“Under-resourced services are, of course, the biggest issue facing our clients. If services are not in place and are not accessible in a timely manner then the proper implementation of legislation is undermined. We strongly endorse the call for any changes to the MHA to be underpinned by improvements to mental health services in Wales. We need resources to be focused on those with the greatest need, and an emphasis on early intervention services which provide support at the earliest point, preventing hospital admission.

“While welcoming the interim report, we would like to see further consultation with service users and their families and carers in Wales, and much more recognition of the Welsh devolved situation.

“We will continue to engage vocally with the review and to ensure that the voices of service users and carers in Wales are heard.”

Also responding to the report, Danielle Hamm, Associate Director of Campaigns and Policy at Rethink Mental Illness said, “This landmark review confirms what we have long known: that there are serious problems with the Mental Health Act.

"People who have been detained under the Act have been telling us how it fails to protect their rights and dignity, and how they are kept out of decisions about their own care. Today is an important validation of this and a much needed call to action.

“In recent years we have seen a welcome increase in mental health awareness. However, the rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats. The review makes clear that those severely affected by mental illness, such as people living with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, who are more likely to be held under the Act, have been dramatically underserved.

“We will continue to work closely with the review, which must keep listening to the voices of people who have been detained under the Act, as well as their families and friends. How we treat, support and care for people experiencing severe mental illness has long been a reflection of whether we are a just and compassionate society.

"We want to see a Mental Health Act that puts the person front and centre, ensuring they are listened to, informed and able to a have a real say in what is happening to them.

"The review's interim report has clearly set out the need for change and it should be required reading for politicians, whose task now must be to commit to reform this important but outdated legislation.”

* Hafal (meaning ‘equal’) is the principal organisation in Wales working with individuals recovering from serious mental illness and their families. It is managed by individuals with serious mental illness and their families. Hafal is founded on the belief that people who have direct experience of mental illness know best how services can be delivered.

* Rethink Mental Illness https://www.rethink.org/

* Hafal http://www.hafal.org/

[Ekk/6]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.