An independent review of mental health legislation has called for the end of using police cells to detain people as well as new rights for patients to challenge the treatment they are being offered. Last year nearly 50,000 were sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 and an independent review chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely called for investment in alternatives to detention and ‘a reinvigoration’ of community services offering alternatives
‘It’s not fair people are put in the back of police vans like criminals rather than go in an ambulance to hospital like everyone else,’ Sir Simon said. ‘You will no longer be held in a police cell, there should be a proper place of safety for everyone around the country, not a prison.’ Sir Simon called detention ‘often anything but therapeutic’. ‘Sadly, people are often placed in some of the worst estates that the NHS has, just when they need the best,’ he said. The review called for ‘a major capital investment’ in the NHS mental health estate.
At the start of the 2017 Mental Health Awareness Week, Theresa May pledged if she should win the general election she would replace ‘in its entirety the flawed Mental Health Act’, which ‘too often leads to detention, disproportionate effects and the forced treatment of vulnerable people’. The review is expected to publish more than 150 recommendations.
According to the NHS, the number of people detained under the Act rose by about 30% from 48,600 in 2011-12 to 63,600 in 2015-16 and black people were four times more likely to be detained.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the review found that the police took around 10,600 patients to places of safety in England last year, compared to ambulances which took about 9,300 people, and on more than 400 occasions, those who were mentally ill were detained in police cells (here). Sir Simon calls for police cells to never be used as places of safety and for patients to be conveyed by ambulance in the “majority” of cases by 2023-24.