Reform of the Mental Health Act Debate

parliamentI was recently invited to observe an important debate regarding the Mental Health Act review. The debate was held at Westminster Hall over in Parliament on the 25th of July 2019.   It must be only the second time I have visited Parliament and if some of my forum members was not there, I would have easily got lost.

I have to thank the Lewisham carer members for attending the debate, it was a lot to ask of them. I wanted to also ask the Lambeth carer members, but that forum was on the same morning and I had to cut my chairing of the forum short. One of the members from the Southwark carers forum wanted to attend, but was held up and I know she is very involved in the mental health act review.

Before I continue, what is the mental health act?

The Mental Health Act 1983 is an Act of the Parliament and it covers how people who are brought into mental health treatment. The MHA also covers the care of mentally unwell persons. There are cases when a person can be detained, also known as sectioned, under the Mental Health Act (1983) and treated without their agreement.

It is important to remember that under the Mental Health Act (MHA), you can be detained if Mental Health professionals think your mental health puts you or others at risk, and you need to be treated in a safe environment.

When someone mentally unwell ends up being detained, they have certain rights.

– They have the right to appeal, and the right to get help from an independent advocate.
– To have someone explain what happens to you and why.
– The right to ask questions on why you are detained.
– The right to confidentiality, although this can be a tricky area.
– The right to be involved in your care plan.

There are also many other rights including equality, but these and other rights can be saved for another blog.

Why was there a debate on the mental health act?

The area many reasons for the debate on the mental health act, the most common being that the times have changed and the mental health act 1983 needs to reflect the changing environment. There are also problems with the mental health act, and I mean big problems.


The previous Prime Minister asked the Professor of Psychological Medicine at the IOPPN (Sir Simon Weesley) to review the Mental Health Act. There have been numerous challenging mental health cases that challenge the legislation of the mental health act. These cases are very tragic and have lead to many serious incidents and investigations. Some cases have had very long delayed investigations and many patients and their loved ones have suffered for it.

The government is under pressure to provide a mental health law that protects those who come under its use. It does not help that the NHS is under pressure, plus funding for mental health services is stretched. Many have lost faith in the mental health act and feel its high time for a review.

Again, the problems of the mental health act should come under another blog and I have plenty to say about it, but I want to focus more on the debate. I wish I actually brought a notebook with me, because the debate was around 3 hours long.

We managed to catch the opening of the debate by MP Neil Coyle who is also a carer himself. We were proud to see my local MP Janet Daby who is also a carer herself, but the other MPs who attended I could not see their names so well and I probably will ask who else attended, so I can feed back to the 4 carer forums.  Some of the things mentioned by other MPs will strike serious interest with some carer members.

I do not know how the MPs do it, but there were many important and passionate points raised over the 3 hours. Obviously families and carer issues were raised by several MPs, but I missed some points from a female MP who spoke at length on families and carers, because…well I ended up napping. Still I woke up when another MP spoke about crisis cafes and some carers might be glad to hear one MP debated heavily on the review of patients choosing who should provide support, although controversial there are situations when patients are at risk from their family, but then when someone is very ill, the risk is that they could cut off those who clearly are trying to protect the patient.

Meeting Of Support Group

Being a carer myself, I have seen more instances of families being cut off due to confidentiality, although I am not saying carers are all angels, but if the NHS builds a wall of silence when a serious incident occurs, who is there to pick up the pieces? We must remember the NHS is under a lot of strain and it cannot be solved by just funding alone.

Moving away from updating how the debate went, I want to focus on my thoughts about the debate. I feel Labour are in a sincere battle to hold the government to account on the mental health act, which is difficult because of the several issues.

  • Brexit is bound to cause loss of focus on the Mental Health Act.
  • There is a risk that the NHS itself will be used as a political ball game in trade agreements with the US.
  • Only few of the amendments from Sir Simon Weesley’s review of the MHA have been past.
  • There is a  fear that the bill will be watered down or not even work.

It is not just Labour’s role in holding the government to account on the mental health act, we all have a part to play and yes, that means you!

If you are a patient or carer. I often tell families and Mental health carers to seek out their MP and query what their MP is doing for carers in their area. Families and carers who do so much for their loved ones, should have some interest in forming that connection to those that fight hard for their rights.


There will be times when the MPs hands are tied and it probably is down to law, and this is one of the reasons carers need to be updated about the mental health act. I often tell carers to keep an eye on the Care Act 2014, I often moan about this act and how it is being dealt with in the community. There are so many laws and bills families and carers need to pay attention to, it is just not enough to read up on what to expect from health services.

Carers must learn to come together and speak up about their experiences, but of course they must be supported to do so. Unfortunately NHS culture has a long way to go to aid carer voices, but it does try and a lot of people in the NHS try very hard. It is not only the NHS, but social care, local authorities, carer charities and mental health charities that must aid in patient and carer identity.

I feel ashamed that I have not been more involved in observing parliament debates and have to thank Neil Coyle for given me the chance to view how MPs debate on such an important and personal matter. I am very impressed on what I have seen from the other MPs debating and I know the MPs are ready to hold the government to account. I look forward to the outcome of the debate and will try to get members interested on what the parties are doing.

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