Dimensions responds to the Government’s draft Mental Health Bill

The Government has published a draft Mental Health Bill which will reform outdated mental health laws and give individuals more control over their care and treatment.

Influencing this legislation is important to our campaign to limit ATU admissions and accelerate discharges for people with learning disabilities and autism.

Our Locked up for Christmas campaign shone a spotlight on the fact that last December there were more than 2000 people detained in Assessment and Treatment Units. Currently people with a learning disability can be detained in inpatient units under the Mental Health Act for displaying behaviour that challenges and not because they have a mental health problem.

Former Health Secretary, Sajid Javid acknowledged that they would be better served in the community. He described one of the fundamental tenets of the bill:

“It limits the scope to detain people with learning disabilities and autistic people for treatment unless they have a mental illness that justifies a longer stay or if they are admitted through the criminal justice system.”

Rachael Dodgson, Chief Executive said:

“At Dimensions we have successfully supported individuals out of institutional settings by providing community support and we will use this experience to influence this legislation to limit ATU admissions and accelerate discharges.”

The Government has committed in the NHS long term plan to close 50% of inpatient beds for people with a learning disability and/or autism by 2024. We are awaiting an action plan to ensure that this happens.

We are providing a new APPG on inappropriate institutional care of autistic people and people with learning disabilities and the inaugural meeting is taking place on 18th July. This will provide a cross-party forum to discuss inappropriate institutional care arrangements and to campaign to reduce the use of ATUs and other forms of inappropriate care arrangements.

The draft Bill includes reforms to:

  • Better ensure that detentions and treatment made under the MHA are necessary, with revisions to the criteria which must be met in order for a person to be detained, treated, or otherwise made subject to the MHA and provide faster, more frequent reviews and appeals of both detentions and treatment.
  • Strengthen the voice of patients – with reforms adding statutory weight to patients’ rights to be involved with planning for their care, and to make choices and refusals regarding the treatment they receive.
  • Improve and expand the roles and powers of people who represent detained patients – in particular by allowing patients to choose the person who represents them.
  • Limit the detention of people with a learning disability and/or autistic people under the MHA to 28 days where there is no co-occurring mental health condition, while retaining hospital as a sentencing option under the MHA for offenders with these conditions, and also retaining the facility to transfer patients with these conditions from prison to hospital.
  • Introduce duties on commissioners to improve understanding of the risk of crisis amongst people with a learning disability and/or autistic people in their local area and ensure an adequate supply of community services to prevent inappropriate detentions.
  • Revise the criteria for the use of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), and enhancing the professional oversight required for any CTO.
  • Remove police stations and prisons as places of safety under the MHA to ensure people experiencing a mental health crisis or with severe mental health needs are supported in an appropriate setting.

This bill will go before a pre-legislative scrutiny committee and we will seek to give evidence to ensure that the new laws give individuals and their families more say over their treatment, reduce periods of detention to the minimum, create clear treatment and assessment plans and ensure that routes to detention are informed by human rights rather than by a medical model of mental health for all patients.