Prime Minister launches new Mental Health legislation to end injustice

Michelle Donelan with Prime Minister Theresa May

• Conservatives will replace the flawed Mental Health Act to tackle longstanding problems of discrimination and overuse of detention
• Sweeping reform of the Equalities Act to protect those with mental health conditions from discrimination at work
• Commitment to 10,000 more staff working in NHS mental health services by 2020

Conservative Parliamentary candidate Michelle Donelan has said:

I know that this is a topic that is very important to Wiltshire residents and it is one that is important to me as well. The Prime Minister is absolutely right to focus on improving mental health care, it’s something I’ve campaigned on and so I really welcome this. Also, during my time on the Education Select committee in Parliament, I have a particular welcoming interest in the plans to roll out mental health support to every school in the country and I fully support the Prime Minister in her announcement

The Prime Minister is today announcing the biggest change to the law on mental health treatment in over three decades.

Theresa May is pledging that, if returned to government, amongst her earliest priorities will be to introduce a Mental Health Treatment Bill to scrap the outdated and unfit-for-purpose 1983 Mental Health Act.

The current law – which was subject to amendment in 2007 – has attracted significant criticism for its anachronistic approach to mental health and the unintended consequences of how it is applied. In the last decade there has been a 43% increase in the number of people detained under the Act – which raises concerns that vulnerable people are being subject to detention, including in police cells, unnecessarily. Black people in particular are significantly more likely to be detained in secure mental health wards.

The Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of healthcare services, identified in its last report on the Act “failings that may disempower patients, prevent people from exercising legal rights, and ultimately impede recovery or even amount to unlawful and unethical practice.”

The Prime Minister is also announcing sweeping changes to the Equalities Act to prevent workplace discrimination. Problems like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are often intermittent, but currently employees are only protected from discrimination if their condition is continuous for 12 months, so the law will be reformed.

On the back of a strong economy, funding for mental health services is currently at record levels – and up by £1.4 billion in real terms by 2020. In order to help deliver these changes, we are also announcing plans for 10,000 more staff working in mental health by 2020. We have pledged to increase medical training places by 1,500 in the coming years and to focus these on targeting shortage specialties including psychiatry.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

On my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burning 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. We are going to roll out mental health support to every school in the country, ensure that mental health is taken far more seriously in the workplace, and raise standards of care with 10,000 more mental health professionals working in the NHS by 2020.

These reforms are a vital part of my plan to build a fairer society for all, not just the privileged few – and they demonstrate the positive difference that strong and stable leadership makes. Jeremy Corbyn is too weak, and his policies are too nonsensical, to help those who rely on our NHS and mental health services.

Over half of mental health problems start below the age of 14, and increasingly children’s mental wellbeing is being affected by internet harms like cyberbullying. So the Conservatives will ensure every primary and secondary school in England has staff trained in mental health first aid and a single point of contact with local mental health services. Under proposed changes to the curriculum, children will be taught more about mental wellbeing, especially in relation to keeping safe online and cyber bullying.

To further improve workplace conditions, we will change Health and Safety at Work regulations to take account of risks to mental health as much as those to physical health. Large organisations will be required to train mental health first responders alongside traditional first aid-trained staff.

We are today committing to funding the Samaritans helpline service through the next Parliament. And finally, Conservatives will end the practice by which indebted patients are charged up to £150 by their GP for a mental health and debt form to prove their mental ill-health to their creditors, following a review announced in January.