Modernising the Mental Health Act

Sophie Carruthers writes.

The Independent Review of the Mental Health published its final report, ‘Modernising the Mental Health Act: increasing choice, reducing compulsion’, in December 2018. Commissioned in late 2017 by then Prime Minister Theresa May, the Review, chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, was set up to look at how the legislation in the Mental Health Act (1983) is used and how practice can improve. Having sought views from those with lived experience, their carers, and the full range of professionals who interact with the Act, the Review culminated in a published report of 154 recommendations, including four key principles that should underpin the reformed Act.

The government have already committed to implementation of a number of recommendations and, in July, NHS England announced its Mental Health Implementation Plan outlining a substantial new investment in community mental health care. The government has recently set up a Mental Health Act Review Advisory Group to consider the Independent Review recommendations and a full response is expected by the end of the year.

I met with Kate King MBE, a service user, Dr Shubulade (Lade) Smith CBE, a Consultant Psychiatrist, and Dr John Taylor, a Consultant Psychologist, to discuss some of the key issues. Is a system based on deprivation of liberty still the appropriate way to support individuals experiencing serious mental illness? Why it is that so many service users feel a lack of dignity whilst under the Act? What are the challenges faced by staff working in this system? What needs to change?

Read our exchange on The Psychologist website at

Sophie Carruthers
PhD student
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London

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