14th Jan, 2021 Read time 4 minutes

UK Government proposes reform for the Mental Health Act

The UK Government has proposed new reforms for the ‘outdated’ Mental Health Act, with a new focus on bridging racial disparities and providing more patient autonomy. 


In 2018 the report which investigated the state of the current Mental Health Act (1983) was published with results on how the act could be modernised with reform and brought into the 21st century. 

The reforms aim to give more autonomy to mental health sufferers 

The topline aim of the reforms is to allow for more patiently autonomy and overall the development of a more humanistic approach to the mental health of individuals in a serious state. 

The new white paper published by the Government aims to apply 4 key principles that must be followed when dealing with any mental health case: 

  • Give more choice and autonomy to patients, ensuring views are respected 
  • Ensuring Mental Health Act powers are used in the least restrictive way
  • Taking steps to ensure patients are supported to get better and discharged as quickly as possible
  • Ensuring patients are treated as individuals  

The reforms for the Act also aims to tackle some of the racial disparities between patients who are more likely to be detained under the act. 

The aims of the act reform are not dissimilar to the upcoming ISO 45003 standard which is being brought forward to better safeguard the mental and psychological health of individuals in the workplace. Indeed the official developments could be an indicator that national and governing bodies are starting to consider mental health higher up on the agenda. 


Thoughts from Tim Marsh

With the publicity around the change, HSE Network sat down with Tim Marsh for a chat about the new reforms and how he viewed reform for mental health in the health and safety industry specifically:

Whenever I see something full of excellent sounding principles (individual empowerment especially) I find I wonder about the catch. Being cynical we know that often changes are aimed at saving money first and foremost especially when it’s about human fallibility and when the economy is struggling as we have been since the crash of 2008. That said, experts seem to think that doesn’t apply here and that the reasoning aims and strategy are on the money.

However, we know that often, despite the best of intentions, unintended consequences often flow from reforms and that for every step forwards we may see one (or two) backwards.  My worry is that where ‘advocacy’ and support is going to be increasingly important (as here – and as rightly so) then the practical availability and quality of that advocacy becomes increasingly key. What could possibly go wrong there!? So I’d like, in time, to get the views of a cross-section of people working in that field … and maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised!

 In terms of health and safety specifically we know that the best and most effective work is pro-active. No matter how well we help individuals that have started to struggle that’s largely reactive. Therefore, if it’s done well it’ll help individuals and their families which is great and which in turn will help companies. However it’s unlikely to make a major impact on key workplace KPIs generally. What industry needs is to deliver – on a day to day basis – are the benefits of ‘good work is good for you’ (because the opposite is also true).


Read more around mental health on HSE Network 

The changes proposed by the Government show there is a movement being made on mental health, and it is now becoming a priority for many organizations. HSE Network curates regular content around mental health including how home working affects the psychological wellbeing of employees

Our mental health and well-being resources page shows some of the latest trends in psychological health within the health and safety industry. 

About Tim Marsh

Tim Marsh is a health and safety expert that has worked with the HSE Network on a number of different projects and is a frequent speaker at the HSE Global Series Congresses. The academic expertise he offers on mental health and wellbeing in health and safety provides some interesting context for this video.

Tim Marsh

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