14:22, June 30 81 0 theguardian.com

2017-06-30 14:22:02
Make our mental health laws fit for purpose

The increasing use of powers to detain patients with mental health problems is deeply disturbing. Reform of mental health legislation – announced in the Queen’s speech – must ensure respect for people’s rights and dignity. It must also incorporate robust, independent research into why rates of detention are increasing so rapidly and why people from some minority ethnic groups are so disproportionately the subject of detention measures. Too few people are able to access quality treatment and support when and where they need it. The root causes of the current mental health crisis – including societal factors such as poverty, addiction and austerity – must be properly investigated if we are to develop new legislation fit for our times.

The views of mental health service users and patients, their families, professionals and carers alongside a comprehensive assessment of community support and treatment options must be central to a credible review. Mental health underpins national social and economic wellbeing – we are glad the government has committed to giving it the urgent attention it deserves.

Robert Bourns President of the Law Society of England and Wales, Paul Farmer Chief executive, MindMark Winstanley Chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness, Wendy Burn President-elect, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Ruth Allen Chief executive, British Association of Social Workers

David Conn rightly draws attention to the need for public funding for the legal representation of victims’ families and for public authorities to be subject to a duty of candour (Don’t let the Grenfell victims suffer the legal nightmare of Hillsborough, 29 June). These were two of the key recommendations of the 2015 Harris review (which were not acted upon). The National Audit Office highlights that the 120 self-inflicted deaths in prison last year was the highest figure on record (Suicide and self-harm in prison hit worst ever levels, 29 June), but an inquiry instigated by parliament’s joint committee on human rights into mental health and deaths in prison was stopped in its tracks by the calling of the general election. The Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody has revealed the shocking inconsistencies of investigations into deaths of mental health patients. Families are not getting justice and as a society we are not learning lessons – time for the investigatory system to be thoroughly overhauled.

Professor Philip Leach

Middlesex University and former member of the Harris review and the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody

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