Studies announced to make patient voices the heart of Mental Health Act


Four new research projects with a focus on patient experiences have been announced to help guide proposed changes to the Mental Health Act.


Written into law in 1983, the Mental Health Act acts as a legal guideline for the assessment, treatment and rights of people sectioned because of a mental health issue.


The law states that individuals can be treated without their consent if they pose a risk of harm to themselves or others – guidance that has long raised questions over the safety and choice of the patients themselves.


The proposed changes to the now 38-year-old legislation aim to address these concerns, giving more power to patients over the treatment they receive.


The reforms also attempt to address the disproportionate detention rates seen in people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.


Funded by the Nation to the now 38-year-old legislation aim to address these concerns, giving more power to patients over the treatment they receive.mental health conditions and improve the experiences of patients and their families and friends."


All four projects will incorporate feedback from people affected by detention under the Mental Health Act or compulsory hospital admission, including the patients themselves and carers.


The first study, Improve-ACT, will look at ways of reducing detention rates of Black African Caribbean men.


The project will incorporate insights from people with the same ethnic background to help combat the disproportionate number of Black British people detained – over four times higher – compared to White British people.


"Given ongoing concerns about the high rates of detention of vulnerable individuals and associated trauma for them and their families, this has the potential to be a crucial piece of research," said Professor Joy Duxbury, Professor of Mental Health at Manchester Metropolitan University and lead researcher of the ImprovE-ACT project.


“We hope to co-create an authentic and effective intervention that will be produced by and for those most affected in a meaningful way. Most importantly we need to ensure that the voice of previously silenced communities is heard.”



Read more: Mental Health Act reform to bring care and treatment "into the 21st century"



The CO-PACT and FINCH studies will look to develop ways to reduce the number of people admitted or re-admitted for compulsory care, respectively.


CO-PACT will ask patients to capture their experiences of compulsory admission through photography, captions and descriptions, which will then be shared with mental health staff.


Meanwhile, the FINCH study will test so-called 'crisis planning' which monitors for early signs of crisis and allows patients to develop and put into practice their own methods of crisis.


“There is currently remarkably little evidence on how to prevent [people being sectioned repeatedly], and good evidence that it can’t be done through coercion," said Professor Sonia Johnson of University College London and researcher for the FINCH study.


The final study, named OPAL, will focus on how best to provide one-to-one peer support for carers of people detained under the Mental Health Act.


“This research tackles an important recommendation of the Mental Health Care review - providing appropriate support and information to carers," said Dr Domenico Giacco of the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust and OPAL researcher.


“Sadly, the stress of caring can lead to psychological distress and even physical or mental health problems. On the other hand, if the expertise by experience of carers is valued and supported, this can have positive and rewarding aspects and be highly beneficial to other carers, to service users and to the NHS and the society at large.”


To find out more about the NIHR's four research projects, click here.