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A Mental Health Act fit for tomorrow An agenda for reform

The Mental Health Act 1983 sets out the legal framework for compulsory powers in England and Wales. It has a huge impact on the lives of individuals needing mental health treatment and their families and loved ones.

The Mental Health Alliance is a coalition of more than 65 organisations that came together in 2000 to provide a focus for campaigning on common
concerns about reform of the Mental Health Act, up to and during the passage of legislation through Parliament. While we welcomed some of the changes that were introduced through the 2007 amendments, we have continued to champion the need for comprehensive reform.

The Alliance survey, the first of its kind, gathered the views of over 8,000 individuals including those with lived experience, families, carers, and loved
ones and professionals. The survey focused on the underlying principles of the Mental Health Act and how people’s rights are currently protected, where it is working well and what could be changed and improved.

Whilst a majority of respondents agreed that there are circumstances when involuntary treatment in hospital may be necessary, the survey reveals deep concerns that people’s dignity, autonomy and human rights are overlooked. When asked about additional rights that are needed, respondents highlighted rights to treatment, choice of treatment and place of treatment, information, and to have a voice – among many other things.

The Mental Health Act is not fit for purpose. We urgently call for a review of the Act, so that together we can protect the rights and improve care for some of the most vulnerable people in the health system.

We want to thank everyone who responded to this important survey, Alliance members and the team at Rethink Mental Illness who worked with the Alliance in developing, disseminating and analysing the survey.