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PM confirms mental health review

Former Royal College of Psychiatrists president Professor Sir Simon Wessely has been appointed to lead a review of the Mental Health Act.

The announcement was made by prime minister Theresa May at the Conservative Party conference.

It follows her pre-election announcement in May of her intention to rip up and replace the “flawed” act to tackle the fact that too many people are being detained under the legislation.

The announcement lacked any further detail as to the remit or timescale of the independent review, though HSJ understands it is hoped that it will be completed by the end of next year.

Mrs May’s only hint as to the direction of the review is her statement that detention rates under the act were too high, and disproportionately affected black people.

She has said that she will introduce a new Mental Health Treatment Bill, but what parts of the existing Mental Health Act 1983 will be amended or revised is not clear. Her previous statement suggested:

  • revising the threshold for detention
  • introducing new codes of practice
  • improving safeguards

Professor Wessely is a highly respected figure across the sector, both inside and outside the NHS, and his appointment has been widely welcomed.

People are often only detained at a moment of serious mental illness and even minor changes to the act could have a huge impact on patients and their families.

As the review unfolds it is vital that Professor Wessely keeps the sector on his side as he tries to shed some light on an extremely sensitive area of mental health policy.