The State of Children's Mental Health Services

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Amendments to Mental Health Act (1983) in England and Wales: First Look

The UK government has today announced emergency powers which bring amendments to the Mental Health Act (1983).

The Bill introduces temporary amendments to the Mental Health Act 1983, the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, the Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 and associated subordinate legislation. The amendment sallow certain functions relating to the detention and treatment of patients to be satisfied by fewer doctors’ opinions or certifications. Temporary amendments also allow for the extension or removal of certain time limits relating to the detention and transfer of patients.

Further provisions will temporarily amend current provisions in respect of defendants and prisoners with a mental health condition. It will reduce the number of doctors’ opinions required and modify time limits for detention and movement between court, prison and hospital. This will enable them to be admitted to hospital for treatment where there might otherwise be delay owing to shortage of qualified staff in a pandemic.

In Scotland, provisions will also permit the reduction in the number of members required to constitute a mental health tribunal and permit a tribunal to make a decision without holding an oral hearing.27 In Northern Ireland, provisions temporarily amend the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 and the Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 to allow for social workers, other than approved social workers, to carry out certain statutory functions in relation to detention and deprivation of liberty. The provisions will also temporarily amend the timelines for carrying out examinations and reports and the operation of the trust panel.

Changes at a glance:

1. Mental Health Act assessments can be undertaken using 1 medical recommendation if obtaining a second doctor is either impractical or would unduly delay an application (note this is NOT s.4).

An application founded on a single recommendation MUST include a statement of the opinion refereed to in relation to it being either impractical or would cause undue delay.

2. Section 5(2) is increased from 72 hours to 120 hours.

3. Section 5(4) is increased from 6 hours to 12 hours.

4. Section 35 (7) ) (period of remand to hospital for report on mental condition)and 36(6) (period of remand to hospital for treatment) have effect as if the words “or for more than 12 weeks in all” were omitted.

Detention in a Place of Safety:

5. S.135 period of detention increased from 24 hours to 36 hours.

6. s.136 period of detention increased from 24 hours to 36 hours.



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