Why are the government making emergency changes to the Mental Health Act?
The Mental Health Act must continue to function effectively throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, in order to ensure the safety, care, and treatment of people severely affected by mental illness. Emergency legislation has been introduced to Parliament which includes temporary measures to change the Mental Health Act. This is because the government is concerned that Covid-19 will reduce the number of mental health professionals available to help people whose mental health places them at risk.
The changes will not apply from the moment the legislation is passed – they may be activated if the crisis worsens.
Are these changes part of the recent review of the Mental Health Act?
No. These are temporary measures and are separate to the ongoing review of the Mental Health Act. These changes will not happen straight away. They will only happen if staff numbers are significantly reduced.
Rethink Mental Illness will be carefully monitoring the rights and conditions of people detained under the Act. And we will continue to press for reform of the Act once the emergency measures are no longer required.
What are the changes being made?
There are number of changes being made. We have put details of these below.
Changes to the number of doctors required to detain you under the Mental Health Act for assessment and treatment
Usually 3 people have to agree that you need to be detained. These are normally an approved mental health professional (AMHP) and 2 doctors. Under the new legislation the number of doctors is reduced to 1.
The AMHP has to record the reason why the decision to detain you was made on the recommendation of only 1 doctor. And they should only take this decision if they believe that staff shortages caused by coronavirus mean it would take too long for a second doctor to assess you.