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Sweeping reforms to the Mental Health Act that the government said would make the system fairer and more patient-centred have been unveiled today.
Under the plans, having a learning disability or autism will no longer be a valid reason for holding someone under the act.
The changes will also seek to address inequalities that currently mean Black people are four times more likely to be detained.
The aim was to improve access to community-based mental health support, including crisis care, to prevent avoidable detentions, said the government.
The white paper was informed by recommendations made by Sir Simon Wessely’s independent review of the Mental Health Act in 2018.
Mental health and suicide prevention minister Nadine Dorries, previously a nurse, said: “We know people are too often disempowered and excluded from decisions, which is where the act, and our ability to successfully support people, often fails.
“Informed by Sir Simon’s recommendations, we will transform the act to put patients at the centre of decisions about their own care.”
The proposals were welcomed by Claire Murdoch, a registered mental health nurse and mental health director for NHS England.
She said: “The proposed reforms are a welcome step towards ensuring that people with mental health needs, a learning disability or autism, remain at the centre of decisions about their care, and that longstanding inequalities in experience and outcomes are addressed.”
The changes that require legislation will go to consultation.
The government plans to launch a draft Mental Health Bill in 2022.
Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said the direction of travel set out by the government was a “welcome step”.
Former mental health nurse Mr Duggan added: “We will work with our members to respond to the consultation, to help ensure that the practicalities of implementing the improvements have been fully thought through.
“This is more critical than ever as the impact of the pandemic means the very real prospect of significantly increased demand for mental health services.”