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Calls for review of Mental Health Act which 'overlooks human rights'

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Theresa May originally wanted to scrap the act Theresa May originally wanted to scrap the act entirely

The Mental Health Act is ‘not fit for purpose’ according to Mind, who are calling on the government to review the possibility it overlooks people’s rights and dignity.

Mind has urged the government to overhaul the 1983 legislation, which sets out the legal framework for compulsory powers in England and Wales, in a report published on 22 June.

Suzanne Hudson, chair of the Mental Health Alliance, said: ‘There have been major changes in terms of the rise in mental health problems and detentions under the act.

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‘As it stands the Mental Health Act is not fit for purpose, which is why we are urgently calling for the government to stick to its promise to review it.’

Mind surveyed over eight-and-a-half thousand people towards the end of 2016 and found that 49% disagreed that people are treated with dignity under the current act.

Additionally, 50% said that they would not be confident that their human rights would be protected by the act if they were detained under it.

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The charity made particular mention of the ‘nearest relative’ part of the act, which gives a say over patients’ treatment and detainment to someone in their family, according to a strict hierarchy. This means relatives who patients might have difficult relationships with can be given control of their health and patients would get no say in it.

Responding to Mind’s calls, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it would support the notion of a review of the act.

RCN professional lead for mental health Ian Hulatt said: ‘The government seem to have moved from the idea of scrapping the act complete to a review of what works and doesn’t, which is a promising development. The RCN would be happy to consult and advise on the process.

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‘Two issues I would like to highlight for government consideration are those of advanced decision making and participation, as well as investment in care planning. These may seem like secondary issues and not and the forefront of many minds, but they are key.

‘When we have surveyed care users and care providers, we have found their opinions on the act to be in sync, so the government would do well to listen to them moving forward.

Additional reporting by Rhys Handley

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