Mind responds to Mental Health Bill being dropped from King's Speech

'There could not be a worse time to abandon this bill'

Watch: King Charles delivers first King's Speech in 70 years

Mind has called out the "missed chance" and "huge blow" of the Mental Health Bill not being included in the King's Speech.

The shelving of the Bill highlighted in today's speech – which provides the UK government with an opportunity to outline its upcoming priorities – means the legislation to reform the Mental Health Act for England and Wales will not be passed before the next General Election.

King Charles delivered the 11-and-a-half-minute speech sitting on a gilded throne, alongside Queen Camilla during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster.

"The long overdue Mental Health Bill is a chance to overhaul the way the system works when people are in a mental health crisis. It is an opportunity to address the deep racial injustices in the use of the Act, with Black people being four times more likely to be detained," says Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of Mind.

"It is also a crucial chance to prevent people being stripped of their dignity, voice and independence when they are sectioned. That chance has now been missed, and the UK government has broken its promise to thousands of people, their loved ones and the nation as a whole to reform the Act."

King and Queen during King's Speech, which did not mention mental health reform. (PA Images)
The King's Speech did not include mental health reform. (PA Images)

Reforms to the Mental Health Act were a key Conservative manifesto commitment in both 2017 and 2019. The plans to reform the 1983 Act – the main piece of law setting out when you can be detained for treatment against your will – have widespread cross-party support and featured in all of the main party manifestos in 2019.

The road to reform began in 2018 with an independent review of the Act, which was followed by a White paper in 2021 and a final parliamentary joint committee report earlier this year. However, its lack of inclusion today has stalled any change to legislation.

Problems with the current 1983 Mental Health act include people being detained not having enough say in their treatment, racial disparities in how it's used, community treatment orders not working, being unfair on people in deprived areas (who are more than three and a half times more likely to be detained than those in the least deprived areas), and it not working for young people, according to Mind.

"This is further evidence of how little regard the current UK government has for mental health. More than 50,000 people were held under the Mental Health Act last year, so it is incomprehensible that legislation which would help people at their most unwell has been de-prioritised," adds Dr Hughes.

"There could not be a worse time to abandon this bill, especially given the recent string of exposés revealing unsafe mental health care across the country.

"People with mental health problems, countless professionals and other experts poured huge amounts of time, effort and resource into reforming this legislation to make it fit for the 21st century. Their voices are being ignored.

"People with mental health problems deserve better than lip service from the politicians who are supposed to represent them at the highest levels of power. Today is a huge blow for our community."

'We won't give up'

Despite the dropping of the Bill, Mind has pledged to continue to fight to raise the standard of mental healthcare and keep pushing to reform the Mental Health Act. "We won’t give up until everyone with a mental health problem gets the support and respect they deserve," Dr Hughes emphasises.

The charity also highlights that the Mental Health Bill isn't the only way the government can make improvements to mental health services. Mind would also like to see:

  • Mental health patients and their loved ones included in the national investigation into mental health hospitals, to help pinpoint exactly why they are so broken and what needs to change

  • Widened investigation to look at people's whole experience, from the physical wards to the delivery of care

  • Increased funding and investment into staff and buildings, to make sure that care is safe, respectful and delivered in the best possible environment.

In terms of what individuals can do, the charity recommends Mind campaigners (you can sign up here) write to their MP about the dropping of the Bill. If you need support, see our useful guide on the most common mental health conditions and where to find help.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson told Yahoo Life UK, "We’re going further and faster to transform our country’s mental health services, with up to an additional £2.3 billion being invested annually by 2024 to expand services, so an extra two million people can get the support they need.

"We are continuing to pilot models of Culturally Appropriate Advocacy, providing tailored support to hundreds of people from ethnic minorities to better understand their rights when they are detained under the Mental Health Act.

"Anyone receiving treatment in an inpatient mental health facility deserves to receive safe, high-quality care and to be looked after with dignity and respect and we are committed to ensuring this happens."

The DHSC also claims it remains committed to reforming mental health legislation and will "seek to bring forward a Mental Health Bill when Parliamentary time allows".