THE Independent Review of the Mental Health Act interim report has been published today, Tuesday (May 1) 2018, by the UK Government.

Responding to the interim report Alun Thomas, Chief Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said: “We welcome the interim report as the first step in recognising key problems with the Mental Health Act (MHA). It is vital that politicians listen.

“As a service user and carer-led charity we are well aware of the issues: the Mental Health Act as it currently stands does not give people the rights, dignity and respect that they deserve.

“We strongly support the aim of giving service users greater autonomy and full involvement in care planning. In Wales, with our devolved legislation, service users have the right to a comprehensive care plan. However, our experience has been that the quality of many of these plans has been inadequate, and that service users, as well as carers and families, have been insufficiently involved in producing them.

“Having opened our own mental health hospital in 2017 we are also keenly aware of the need for a change of culture in hospitals. Our Gellinudd Recovery Centre places patients at the heart of their care, as they lead both the service and their own recovery. This culture of empowerment simply isn’t present in the majority of hospital settings, even though giving patients dignity and status is extremely beneficial to their recovery. We would welcome the advisory panel to come and visit our hospital and see what can be achieved by giving patients the dignity they deserve.

“With regard to rising detention rates, our experience has been that reduced support in the community, due to specialist mental health services being replaced by generic services, has led to an increased number of detentions – and this is an area which demands particular attention.

“Finally, the interim report recognises that service users are left too long in prison when they should be in hospital. We provide many criminal justice services across Wales, and our concern is that people with a mental illness are not diverted from the system effectively, with devastating consequences. This is a particularly vulnerable group which should be robustly supported by the review.

“Under-resourced services are, of course, the biggest issue facing our clients. If services are not in place and are not accessible in a timely manner then the proper implementation of legislation is undermined. We strongly endorse the call for any changes to the MHA to be underpinned by improvements to mental health services in Wales. We need resources to be focused on those with the greatest need, and an emphasis on early intervention services which provide support at the earliest point, preventing hospital admission.

“While welcoming the interim report, we would like to see further consultation with service users and their families and carers in Wales, and much more recognition of the Welsh devolved situation.

“We will continue to engage vocally with the review and to ensure that the voices of service users and carers in Wales are heard.”

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