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Mental Health Legislation

Volume 689: debated on Tuesday 23 February 2021

On 13 January, we published a White Paper on reforming the Mental Health Act 1983, setting out proposals to make the Act work better for people. We have launched a 14-week consultation, during which we are inviting views from the public, professionals, service users and carers to ensure that we get this once-in-a-generation opportunity right.

I am delighted that my hon. Friend is taking steps to bring mental health laws into the 21st century, not least because they are 40 years old. Can I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sir Simon Wessely, who produced his independent review into the Mental Health Act in 2018? Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Government will be accepting many of his recommendations?

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend, and I would also like to pay tribute to Sir Simon and his co-chairs for their comprehensive work. The Secretary of State said in the House last year that

“the Wessely review is one of the finest pieces of work on the treatment of mental ill health that has been done anywhere in the world.”—[Official Report, 23 June 2020; Vol. 677, c. 1164.]

I know that the review was welcomed by hon. and right hon. Members across the House. We are taking forward the vast majority of Sir Simon’s 154 recommendations, either directly or by advancing the principles put forward by the review. The White Paper document contains the Government’s response to each of the recommendations.

The overhaul of the Mental Health Act has been long awaited. It is people who have to be at the heart of the legislation, and that includes staff. The promises that the Secretary of State has made rely on a workforce: our fantastic frontline mental health staff, of which there are simply too few at present. I asked him last month to outline when we would get the workforce settlement and what reassurance he could give on filling the training places. We are still waiting for an answer. Would the Minister like to answer now?

Work is under way; Health Education England is looking at proposals, particularly for the training of mental health workers. I wish to highlight one area where we can see that happening rapidly: in the mental health support teams that are going into schools. People are coming out of universities with their degree and going through a year’s training so that we can get them into schools faster to work with children and young people. The hon. Lady is right; the mental health workforce is at the heart of these reforms. I assure her that we have seen an increase in the number of people applying to be mental health nurses—and nurses across the healthcare estate—and that will have a knock-on effect on the number of people we have working on the wards with people who have severe mental illness.