A response to the Interim report for the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act

As the national user-led mental health charity, NSUN very much welcomed the government’s recognition of the need for a review and has been taking a close interest in it. We recognise improvements which have been put forward for further discussion in the interim report. These include increased decision-making powers for service users, a strengthening of advance directives, service user choice on appointing the ‘nearest relative’ and better support.

However, we also have strong concerns about the approach being taken:

  • The Terms of Reference for the Review emphasise co-production with service users who have lived experience of detention and compulsory treatment and this has certainly resulted in service user involvement. However, we have not found this to be on an equal basis with professionals. We support approaches to co-production based on equality

  • The interim report focuses on improvements to the Mental Health Act 1983, not on compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: a human rights model of disability and the bringing to an end of detentions, substitute decision-making and compulsory treatment. This is perhaps not surprising, given the Review’s Terms of Reference and the growing focus on keeping closely to these and on producing related consultation material. In addition, the limited time span set for the review has been a major barrier to achieving fundamental changes. However, it is very disappointing that a real opportunity to bring the Act and related services into line with human rights is being missed

  • The current political context is also of concern. A consequence of Brexit is the loss of rights gained under the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. As a result, mental health service users’ access to supranational institutions for support with human rights appeals is likely to be harder

  • There are shortfalls in the data collected and/or presented in the report, including data from service users who experience multiple disadvantages. The latter include black, Asian and other minority ethnic service users with lived experience of detention and compulsory treatment and/or people who have more than one type of disability, older people, trans people and people who live in poverty. We are calling for these fundamental knowledge gaps to be addressed and for a more critical and balanced approach to analysing the evidence for the report, particularly evidence from people with negative perspectives on detention.

You can down load the letter to members here.

If you would like to add your support please email Dorothy Gould and indicate if you are signing as a group or individual, providing your preferred title.