The number of people detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) has risen by 36% since 2010 and in 2015-16 alone it rose by more than 5,000. It is clear to me that the MHA is not currently working; it is too often overly restrictive, and it fails to give people the support they need.
I am concerned that cuts to community services that intervene before people’s mental health reaches crisis point, alongside cuts to other local mental health services, have contributed to a rise in detentions. Research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that mental health trusts have less money to spend on patient care in real-terms than they did in 2012.
Despite repeated promises by Ministers that they will give mental health the same priority as physical health, money is not reaching the frontline and is instead being used to pay for other priorities in the NHS. Rather than investing in prevention and early intervention services, the Government has made real-terms funding cuts which mean that more people are at risk of being detained and fewer detentions are being prevented.
As you know, an independent review of the MHA published its final report in December last year. The Government subsequently promised a new Mental Health Bill to transform mental health care and the report can be read here.
If the Government fails to act to improve services, I believe it will squander the opportunity to reform the Mental Health Act and the injustices that exist in the system. Ministers must respond to the review and urgently bring forward legislation to address concerns. In the meantime, I will press the Government to increase spending on services, ring-fence mental health budgets to ensure funding reaches the frontline, and address workforce shortages so that the NHS can deliver the safe care patients expect and deserve. I have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to ask what they are going to do to improve services to allow the reform of the Mental Health Act to be effective. As soon as I have received a response I will contact you again.