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Mental Health legislation on reform agenda

15th November 2006

During her speech to parliament today, the Queen announced an overhaul of the 1983 Mental Health Act.

Reforms will be undertaken in order to "provide a better framework for treating people with mental disorders" in England and Wales, said Her Majesty.

The Mental Capacity Act is one of the pieces of legislation which will be examined and changes made to introduce safeguards for those who are deprived of their liberty due to a mental disorder, but not encompassed by mental health legislation.

The introduction of supervised community treatment for some patients who have been discharged from hospital has also been proposed, as has the working of a new definition of 'mental disorder' and the introduction of a new 'treatment test', which would replace the current 'treatability test'.

"We urgently hope that the final process of this long drawn-out saga will result in a piece of legislation that is not a wasted opportunity," said Paul Farmer, the chief executive of mental health charity Mind.

"It must provide compassionate treatment and care [for] people with mental health problems. The 1983 Act needs updating. But it needs to provide care for people when they first need it, not leave them to reach a crisis state or scare them away from seeking help by the threat of compulsory treatment."

The Queen's speech took place in the House of Lords today amid the usual pomp and ceremony.