Overhaul of mental health legislation survives Queen’s Speech cull

The Conservative promise to overhaul mental health legislation has survived the cull of Bills for today’s slimmed down Queen’s Speech.

The Queen said: “My government will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England.”

The Tory manifesto promised the first Mental Health Bill for 35 years to tackle discrimination, reform the powers to section people suffering from mental illness, and secure better support in people’s workplaces.

According to the manifesto the legislation will scrap the “outdated” Mental Health Act 1983 to ensure people with mental illness are “treated fairly”.

The reforms of sectioning will increase emphasis on treatment rather than detention and strengthen the involvement of families. Discharge from community treatment orders will be simplified.

The party promised to reduce the “disproportionate use of force” against people from ethnic minorities in secure mental health units.

There was a commitment to speed up access to mental health services for NHS staff

It said health and safety regulations would be amended so that employers provide first aid training for mental health, and the Equalities Act will be extended to protect people with episodic mental health conditions.

The party promised that schools would have a single point of contact with mental health services and children would be given more information about mental well-being.

It said there would be a public awareness campaign on mental health similar to the Dementia Friends training programme.

There was also a commitment to speed up access to mental health services for NHS staff.

The government’s briefing on the legislation indicated extensive consultations would preceed any Bill, saying it “will now begin to consider what further reform of mental health legislation is necessary”.

There will also be a green paper on child and young people’s mental health.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, NHS Confederation Mental Health Network chief executive Sean Duggan said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to prioritising mental health and the planned reform of mental health legislation, which is much needed. The Mental Health Act has played an important role in supporting people who have reached the point of crisis, but it is nearly 35 years old and clearly needs refreshing…

“So we support the proposal for reform and in particular identifying why the number of detentions under the Act have risen by around 10 per cent year-on-year since 2010/11.”

There was no specific mention in the Queen’s Speech of the manifesto promise to introduce a Veterans Board into the Cabinet Office, with responsibilities including mental health services for former military personnel.

Professonal regulation reform ditched

The promise to finally implement long-delayed plans to replace the outdated system of professional regulation for healthcare staff has been dropped, as the government stripped out controversial and complex legislation. The Law Commission’s proposed Regulation of Health & Social Care Professionals Bill, on which any legislation would have been based, ran to around 200 pages.