Controversial Mental Health Act changes scrapped

Controversial proposals that would have “severely” affected the rights of people with mental health problems have been scrapped, it has been revealed.

The Mental Health Act changes, planned to be introduced as part of emergency Covid-19 legislation, had received serious opposition from rights advocacy groups.

Under the plans, the decision to section someone with a mental illness could be made by fewer health professionals and time limits on detention could be suspended or extended.

While the primary aim of the changes was to support the healthcare profession to operate effectively with staff shortages throughout the pandemic, rights groups said the laws came “at the expense of safeguarding some of the most vulnerable people in our society”.

After listening to concerns, it has now been revealed that the Mental Health Act changes have been dropped entirely.

Charity Mind said the news will come as a “huge relief” to people with mental health problems knowing that their rights have been protected.

“These emergency powers would have been hugely detrimental for people in mental health crisis – with a reduction in the number of doctors needed to make decisions about someone’s care and increases to the timeframes people could be detained against their will,” said Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind.

“We are glad these emergency changes were never used and now the threat of them being used is no longer there. We understand there will still be a need for flexibility within the healthcare system as we enter a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, however this cannot be at the expense of safeguarding some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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