The first official mental health act was created in 1983. This was created to protect and care for mental health patients but also a guideline for nurses and doctors in which to abide by when treating and caring for mentally ill patients. There are many revised versions of the mental health act and it is usually amended every year as new rules and guidelines come into place.
The mental health act is largely based on the circumstances in which a person with a mental health disorder can be detained for treatment for that disorder without his or her consent. Safeguards for these patients are also set out in processes that must be followed. The main purpose of the legislation is to ensure that patients with serious mental health disorders which threaten the safety of the public or their own health and safety can be treated regardless of their consent where necessary to prevent them from harming themselves and others around them.
The main changes from the mental health act 1983 since it was brought into practice are the definition of mental disorder, the criteria for detention, professional roles, nearest relative and electro convulsive therapy.
In the mental health act 2007 for example the definition of mental disorder is changed so that a single definition applies throughout the whole Act. It also abolishes references to categories of disorder. New safeguards have also been brought in for patients undergoing electro convulsive theory. The changes to nearest relative allows the patient to have the right to make an application to the country court to displace their nearest relative and gives the court the same right if they think a relative is not suitable.
Nurses, Doctors and professional medical staff following today’s mental health act have more responsibility to the patient than in previous acts. The group of practitioners has also been broadened to those who can take on the functions currently performed by the approved social worker (ASW) and responsible medical officer (RMO).
Since the 1983 act the criteria for detention has also changes somewhat over recent years. It introduces a new appropriate medical treatment test which applies to all the longer term powers of detention. It is now not possible for patients to be compulsorily detained, or their detention continued, unless appropriate medical treatment and all other circumstances of the case are available to that patient. It is these criteria that abolished the treatability test.
The latest versions of the mental health act, particularly the 2007 mental health act also amends the mental capacity act and the domestic violence, crime and victims act.
Nurses, Doctors and Health Care Professionals have to be up to date with these acts year on year to assure they are following the correct procedures and guidelines. This ensures no laws are broken and the patient is treated fairly and by the latest policies. If you are a medical professional you can refer to the mental health act online or through your code of conduct guidelines provided by the NHS, which should be readily available as soon as the act is passed.