The Mental Health Alliance has said the new Mental Health Act 2007 must be reformed “sooner rather than later” to ensure legislation is based around “human rights, equality and respect”.
The 77-strong coalition of mental health charities and professional bodies said the act, which formally became law last month, should not last as long as its two predecessors – 24 years – without reform.
In a final report on the act, the Mental health Alliance restated its fundamental criticisms of the legislation as authoritarian and stigmatising. It said that while other countries had fundamentally modernised their mental health laws, England and Wales had only slightly improved its own.
However, the alliance said that without its campaigning on the legislation – and that of the government’s opponents inside and outside parliament – the Mental Health Act 2007 could have been much worse.
Concessions won from the government included a right to advocacy for patients, a guarantee of age-appropriate treatment for under-18s and provision to ensure treatment should be intended to benefit users – and not just be “appropriate”.
But opponents failed to persuade parliament to restrict new community treatment orders to so-called revolving door patients – those who would otherwise be in and out of hospital – and ensure people who possessed capacity could not be detained.