Theresa May has pledged to scrap the Mental Health Act 1983 if the Conservatives are re-elected.
The prime minister promised to replace the Act with a new Mental Health Treatment bill that would introduce:
- Revised thresholds for detentions in a bid to stop the powers being “over used”.
- A new code of practice aimed at reducing the disproportionate use of mental health detention for minority groups.
- A new set of safeguards for people with mental health problems who have capacity to refuse or consent to treatment, so that “they can never be treated against their will”.
Mental health professionals, charities and patients would be consulted on the plans, which come against the backdrop of a steep rise in Mental Health Act detentions in recent years.
The Tories described the proposals as the biggest change to mental health treatment law in more than 30 years.
May said: “On my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burining injustices in our country. It is abundantly clear to me that the discriminatory use of a law passed more than three decades ago is a key part of the reason for this.
“So today I am pledging to rip up the 1983 Act and introduce in its place a new law which finally confronts the discrimination and unnecessary detention that takes place too often.”
The Conservative leader also pledged to reform the Equality Act to protect people with mental health conditions from being discriminated against at work, and vowed to hire 10,000 more staff for NHS mental health services by 2020.
Labour accused the Conservatives of failing to adequately fund mental health services during their time in government.
Research by Community Care, published in March 2015, found funding for NHS mental health trusts dropped 8% in real-terms over the course of the coalition government.
Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow mental health minister, said: “The Tories have not delivered on their promise to give mental health the same priority as physical health. They appear to be offering no extra funding and have consistently raided mental health budgets over the last seven years.
“Warm words from the Tories will not help to tackle the injustice of unequal treatment in mental health.”