This week, we focus on the Mental Health Act review, otherwise known as 'the Wessely review'.
The Mental Health Act review
The Prime Minister has announced plans for an independent review of the Mental Health Act. Our 'gov.uk' feature contains links to the the government's announcement and the policy paper ('terms of reference').
The terms of reference state that the review should closely involve service users and carers (both current and past) in all aspects of its work.
The independent review panel is chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Regius Professor of Psychiatry, King’s College London President, Royal Society of medicine. Vice-Chairs include: Sir Henry Globe, Queen’s Council since 1994, Rabbi Baroness Neuberger, DBE Former CEO, The Kings Fund Chair, review of the Liverpool Care Pathway. Steve Gilbert, Serious Mental Illness Living experience Consultant.
Where does NSUN stand?
When the Prime Minister announced her desire to address the 'burning injustices' of mental health in her first speech of 2017, we were skeptical and expressed our concerns concerning the context in which the government's statements were made. You can read our article here.
Point 6 of our NSUN Members' Manifesto published January 2017 calls for a reform of the Mental Health Act 2007 to make it fully compliant with human rights and ensure people are not harmed or abused, point 6 (page 11).
We wish to raise the following concerns:
The Mental Health Act is in breach of fundamental human rights
There is no acknowledgement of the the fact that the United Nations have challenged the UK government concerning the rights of people with disabilites - we wrote about this here
There is no mention of the Brexit context, in which the 'Charter of Rights' is not transfered into UK Law. This means loss of legislation concerning fundamental rights which should underpin the Mental Health Act
There is a continued emphasis on the medical model
We believe that:
The human rights of people with lived experience should be respected and upheld and our power and choices should be returned to us
Lived experience and survivor knowledge should be valued as part of the ‘evidence base’ that is used to inform research and decisions made by policy makers and commissioners
The review is not aiming high enough. Mark Brown makes pertinent suggestions for a more robust a bill of rights for people with mental health needs.
The planned Mental Health Act review: a need for urgent action by NSUN members
'My Government will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England.'
In June this year,the Queen’s Speechincluded the statement above which appeared to commit to working ‘towards a new Mental Health Act’.
It is positive that there are plans to reform the current Mental Health Act. However, the government’s current approach seems to stem from a continued emphasis on the medical model (a continuing emphasis on NHS services).
The government is also focusing on a reduction in detentions and compulsory treatment instead of recognising that these represent a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). At NSUN, we see the planned changes as an opportunity to advocate strongly for a rights-based Mental Health Act and for alternatives to a medical model, with investment above and beyond NHS provision.
As a member of the Mental Health Alliance, NSUN welcomed the possibility of research that was designed to gather views on the principles of the Mental Health Act, including views from those who use mental health services. In addition, the report which resulted from the survey contains some important emphases on improved rights for people detained under the Act.
However, there are also some serious shortfalls in the approach taken to the research and conclusions reached from the findings. Therefore, NSUN strongly emphasised the need for further research to be undertaken before the completion of the study and the circulation of the report; we wanted to ensure that those most affected by the Act were adequately represented in the report. Unfortunately, the report was published regardless and the Mental Health Alliance has been strongly promoting it with the government.
Read more about the report and the reasons why we did not endorse it here.
Sample letter to your MP
If you would like to advocate for a rights-based Mental Health Act and for recognition of alternatives to the medical model and if you agree with our concerns about the Mental Health Alliance’s report, we urge you to complete the sample letter below and send it to your MP. (We recognise, of course, that you may want to write your own letter on the subject, but thought that a model letter would be useful.)
We have tried to make the letter as clear and precise as possible and so provide full links to further information. You can download the letters from our website hereor please find them attached.
A copy of the letter with full web links (to print as hard copy)
A copy of the letterwith hyperlinks (to use digitally)
You just need to:
Amend the date at the top of the copy of the letter with hyperlinks to fit the date when you forward the letter to your MP
Add your local MP's name in place of 'MP NAME'
Insert your name and provide your contact details in place of the words 'YOUR NAME AND CONTACT DETAILS'.
It is useful to include your postal address amongst the contact details; MPs may want to be sure that you live in their constituency.
If you want to find out who your MP is, because you do not already know, go to http://www.parliament.uk/business/commons/and type in your postcode in the Find Your MP box on the right hand side of the page. You will then see who your MP is.
MPs may have their own website where you can find out more about them and their concerns and interests.
You may also be able to follow them on Twitter.
Another useful website is https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ where you type in the name of your MP and the issue and it will show you all the statements she, or he has made on that subject.
When you get a reply please send it (or a copy) to:
If you are concerned about the issues, please also use your networks to promote NSUN’s concerns and encourage as many individuals and organisations as possible to lobby their MPs about current plans for reform of the Mental Health Act and shortfalls in the Mental Health Alliance’s report.
What should happen when things go wrong?
Martyn Coyle has been an advocacy campaigner for over 15 years. He runs True Voiceas an independent consultant and continues to promote the importance of independent advocacy.
In his blog for NSUN he looks at the ways the mental health system continues to deny people their basic rights, especially those who are voluntarily on inpatient wards.
We will be running special Mental Health Act review blog features during the process of the review. If you would like to share your thoughts on this then do get in touch with us by emailor call 020 7820 8982.
When it was announced, the appointed chair,Simon Wessely blogged about the review in the Huffingdon Post
Community Care provided a good context round up here
Titled 'prime minister announces review to tackle detention of those with mental ill health', the government's announcement does not seem to describe a full review of the Mental Health Act; instead, there is a specific focus on the topic of detention