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05th September 2014

Cracking the Code

Businessman looking through a magnifying glass to documentsThere is a consultation process going on at the moment about the Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act 1983. The Mental Health Act 1983 is the major piece of mental health law in England and Wales. It was amended in 2007 with a number of significant changes, but it is worth knowing it is still called the Mental Health Act 1983.

Consultation process

Accompanying the Act is a Code of Practice. It is not the law, it is guidance, but it carries clout – it is statutory guidance agreed by Parliament. The Code of Practice in use at the moment was issued shortly after the last changes to the Mental Health Act. Now, there have been a number of developments in law, policy and thinking about mental health in the last seven years, so the Government has launched a consultation on changes to the Code. The consultation ends on 12th September. You can look at the draft new Code at:

Consultation on proposed changes to the Code of Practice: Mental Health Act 1983

Changes to the Code

I’ve picked out a few significant changes to the Code which might be of interest to workers in the field of mental health:

  • The first makes reference to the new Care Quality Commission standards. The Code of Practice will guide the CQC in their inspections of mental health units, and the CQC will use this as a guide to what a rating of a ‘good’ mental health service should look like.
  • The draft code makes it clear this is not just a matter for specialist practitioners. They say that everyone has a role in ensuring the Code is applied properly, that includes patients and their family and friends.
  • The new code has a chapter on the Care Programme Approach (CPA). Interestingly the existing code does not include such a chapter. The CPA has been around since 1990, so perhaps the Government thought this a good time for a reminder. The CPA is the system for assessing, planning and co-ordinating care for people with mental disorder. It should apply to people whether they have been detained under the Act, or admitted on an informal basis. The chapter is a very useful summary of how it should work. Interestingly the need to use CPA is backed up by law in Wales, and the chapter describes what should happen if a patient from Wales is placed in a facility in England.
  • The draft code also contains a chapter on the thorny question of when to use the Mental Capacity Act and when to use the Mental Health Act. It’s a topic that has featured in a number of case law judgements. This chapter includes some flowcharts and case examples.

I hope this summary of the changes encourages you to look at the draft Code, or even comment. There’s not much time left before the consultation period closes!

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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