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Campaigners urge Government to include Mental Health Bill in King's Speech


A photo of the front door to number 10 Downing Street
Photo: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC/MOD

​ TL;DR

  • The Mental Health Bill aims to reform outdated mental health laws and prevent people with learning disabilities and autism from being detained in mental health hospitals.

  • The bill was introduced in 2022 but has since stalled.

  • Campaigners are urging the government to include the bill in the upcoming King's Speech so that it can be passed into law as soon as possible.

MP Robert Buckland and advocates from organisations such as the National Autistic Society and Mencap have called on the government to include the Mental Health Bill in the upcoming King's Speech.


The bill aims to reform outdated mental health laws and prevent people with learning disabilities and autism from being detained in mental health hospitals.

In an open letter to No. 10 with over 18,000 signatures, the campaigners urge the Prime Minister to urgently reform the nation's mental health laws.


NHS data shows that in September 2023, 2,045 people with autism or learning disabilities were being kept in mental health wards across England.

"For too long, autism and other lifelong neurodiverse conditions have been wrongly equated with mental health," Buckland said. "They are not the same... and to align the two, I think can lead to injustice and it can lead to the incarceration of autistic people in entirely inappropriate surroundings."

The Mental Health Bill was introduced in 2022 to modernise the original legislation, but it has since stalled.


The campaigners are calling on the government to fulfill its 2019 manifesto pledge and incorporate the bill into the King's Speech so that it can be passed into law as soon as possible.


 

Why is the Mental Health Bill so important?

The current Mental Health Act was established in 1983, and it is widely seen as being outdated and no longer fit for purpose. The bill aims to address a number of key issues, including:

  • Reducing the use of compulsory detention: The bill would raise the threshold for compulsory detention and introduce a new presumption in favor of community-based care.

  • Improving the rights of patients: The bill would give patients more control over their care and treatment, and it would ensure that they have access to independent advocacy and support.

  • Addressing inequalities: The bill would take steps to reduce the disproportionate number of people from minority ethnic groups and people with learning disabilities and autism who are detained under the Mental Health Act.


What are the benefits of reforming the Mental Health Act?


Reforming the Mental Health Act would have a number of benefits, including:

  • Improving the quality of care: A more modern and humane Mental Health Act would lead to better outcomes for patients.

  • Reducing the cost of care: Compulsory detention is expensive, and moving to a more community-based approach would save the NHS money.

  • Promoting social justice: The current Mental Health Act is unfair and discriminatory, and reforming it would help to create a more just and equitable society.


What can you do to support the Mental Health Bill?


There are a number of things that individuals can do to support the Mental Health Bill:

  • Contact your MP and the Prime Minister: Let them know that you support the bill and urge them to include it in the King's Speech.

  • Spread the word: Talk to your friends and family about the Mental Health Bill and why it is important. Share articles and information on social media.

  • Donate to organizations that are supporting the bill: Organisations such as the National Autistic Society and Mencap are working hard to raise awareness of the Mental Health Bill and build support for it.

The Mental Health Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the way that mental health care is delivered in England and Wales. By working together, we can make sure that the bill is included in the King's Speech and passed into law as soon as possible.

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