I have been contacted by constituents regarding the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, which is due to have its Second Reading on 3 November. The Bill concerns the use of force in mental health units and seeks to make provision about the oversight and management of this, and the use of body-worn cameras by police officers in mental health units.

Tackling poor mental health is a priority and the Government has legislated to treat it with the same importance as physical health. Progress is being made, with mental health spending rising continuously since 2010 and resulting in record investment of £11.7 billion in 2016.

However, the Government is not complacent and recognises that it must go further: it is developing a seven day mental health service and has introduced the first-ever mental health access and waiting time standards, so that 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies start their treatment within 6 weeks, and 95 per cent within 18 weeks. In addition, patients experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks.

Furthermore, in February 2016 the independent Mental Health Taskforce, which I was honoured to launch as Minister of State for Health, published a new national strategy, setting out an ambitious vision for mental health services.  

To make these recommendations a reality, the Government will spend an additional £1 billion on mental health by 2020-21 so that people receive the right care in the right place when they need it most. This includes increasing the number of people completing talking therapies by 600,000 per year, and helping 20,000 more people to find or stay in work through individual placement support and talking therapies.   

In order to continue to reduce the number of people detained in police cells under the Mental Health Act, the Prime Minister recently announced that the Government would embark on a comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act, with a final report in autumn 2018.

It will be led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and will: examine existing practices; address the disproportionately high rates of detention of people from ethnic minorities; consider the needs of all users of mental health services and their families; and determine how best to improve the system’s support for those during a mental health crisis.

The Government expects some of the solutions to lie in practice, leadership and culture, as well as potentially legislation. Details of the review can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mental-health-act-independent-review/terms-of-reference-independent-review-of-the-mental-health-act-1983

In relation to the use of body-worn cameras, the decision to procure and deploy these is a matter for local Police and Crime Commissioners and chief officers. Each police force in England and Wales has its own implementation plan and schedule, with most forces using them to a certain extent. I am aware of some trialled uses of body-worn cameras in mental health units, and will follow their impact closely. 

On 25th October, the Home Office announced that it is consulting on new regulations which will allow police officers to use body-worn cameras for suspect interviews away from the police station setting. You can find the consultation here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/revising-pace-codes-c-h-e-and-f 

It is essential that as a society we seek true parity for mental and physical health and I believe that the Government’s record and proposals will help to ensure this.