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Draft Mental Health Bill published to support people experiencing a mental health crisis

The government has announced £150m investment to improve mental health services for those experiencing a mental health crisis outside of A&E.

A depressed person

The funding over the next three years will bolster NHS mental health services, better support people in crisis outside of A&E and enhance patient safety in mental health units, acting on recommendations from Professor Sir Simon Wessely’s independent review of the Mental Health Act.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This is a significant moment in supporting people with serious mental health issues.

“We’re investing more money to ensure NHS patients have tailored services and support, so people in a mental health emergency get the right care at the right time.

“Our reforms to the outdated Mental Health Act are another important milestone in better supporting those with serious mental health issues and giving people greater control over their treatment, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds who are disproportionately detained under the Act,” he added.

The funding includes:

£7 million for specialised mental health ambulances across the country to reduce the use of general ambulance call outs for those experiencing a mental health crisis and prevent the inappropriate use of police vehicles as a way to take people to hospital.

Supporting local communities to invest in alternatives to hospital admission for people experiencing a mental health crisis, such as ‘crisis houses’ run by the voluntary sector which will ensure people can access the treatment they need within their community.

Increasing local capacity to reduce avoidable hospital admissions and inappropriate out of area hospital placements. This will result in improved patient outcomes as people in crisis will be able to receive specialised treatment in appropriate environments, reducing the risk of readmission to hospital.

The government also published its draft Mental Health Bill setting out reforms to the Mental Health Act to ensure greater choice and autonomy for patients in a mental health crisis. They will also aim to tackle the racial disparities in mental health services, better meet the needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people and ensure appropriate care for people with serious mental illness within the criminal justice system.

Deep seated health disparities will be tackled to ensure that everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve and ending the stigma of mental illness once and for all. This includes the disproportionate number of people from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities detained under the Mental Health Act as Black people are over four times more likely to be detained under the act and over 10 times more likely to be subject to a community treatment order.

Improved culturally appropriate advocacy services are being piloted in four areas in England so people from ethnic minority backgrounds can be better supported by people who understand their needs and NHS England are developing a Patient and Carer Race Equalities Framework to provide mental health trusts with practical steps to improve the experience of care within mental health services for people from ethnic minority communities.

The reforms will also change the way people with a learning disability and autistic people are treated in law by setting out that neither learning disability or autism should be considered reasons for which someone can be detained for treatment under section 3 of the Act. Instead, people with a learning disability or autistic people could only be detained for treatment if a mental health condition is identified by clinicians.

People with serious mental illness within the criminal justice system will also be supported through a 28-day time limit to speed up the transfer of prisoners to hospital, ending unnecessary delays and ensuring they get the right treatment at the right time. This will also end the outdated practice of using prisons as ‘places of safety’ for defendants with acute mental illness will end. Instead, judges will work with medical professionals to ensure defendants can always be taken directly to a healthcare setting from court.

Prisons Minister, Victoria Atkins, said: “It is essential that those in the criminal justice system get the right mental health support, so we can keep them and the public safe while also cutting crime.

“The new Mental Health Bill will speed up access to treatment, enshrine important protections for vulnerable people and ensure prisons are not used as an alternative to hospital treatment,” she added.

The draft bill is now subject to pre-legislative scrutiny where a parliamentary select committee will examine the draft in detail before the government publishes a final version.

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