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Tougher law to tackle unfair mental health detentions

By Léa Legraien
6 December 2018

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More powers will be given to people detained under the Mental Health Act, an independent review has said.

The Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, published today, recommended that people subject to the act, especially those from ethnic minority groups, should be more involved in the care and treatment imposed on them.

The review was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May last year to look at the rising rates of detention, the overrepresentation of people from ethnic minority groups, and alternative processes.

Greater patient involvement

Under the proposals, the review suggested new advance choice documents allowing patients and service users to express their views and preferences on their future care and treatment.

Individuals could also be entitled to choose their own nominated person, rather than being allocated a nearest relative, to help make their wishes and preferences known, should they not be in a condition to do so themselves.

Welcoming the recommendations, chief executive of the charity Mind Paul Farmer said that ‘outdated legislation’ has left thousands of people without the support they need.

He added: ‘The recommendations to strengthen people’s rights, empower them to question decisions about their care, choose their treatment and involve friends and family have the potential to make a real difference to those who are in an extremely vulnerable situation.’

Addressing ‘burning injustices’

In addition, a series of recommendations were made to ‘tackle the disproportionate number’ of people from ethnic minority groups detained under the act, the review said.

These include a new patient and care race equality framework to ensure ethnic minority groups receive culturally-appropriate services and that higher criteria are introduced for individuals to be detained under the act.

Campaigning group Black Thrive founding member Jacqui Dyer said: ‘The review’s recommendations, if implemented robustly, will make a serious effort to address the burning injustices of variable experiences of detention under the Mental Health Act and of mental health care.

‘Black African and Caribbean people experience significantly higher detentions under the Mental Health Act than other main ethnic groups. This inequality in access to mental health services is known to be one of the greatest across healthcare provision.’

According to data published by NHS Digital in October, black or black British people are more than four times more likely to be detained under the act than white people.

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