New rights for people who are detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act by the police are being put forward by the Welsh Government.
Under the new proposals, people with suspected mental health issues detained under s136 should be assessed within three hours and not be held in police custody for more than 12 hours.
The Mental Health Act 1983 sets out the legal framework for people who need detention for the assessment and treatment of mental health problems.
The Welsh Government is consulting on a revised Mental Health Act 1983 Code of Practice for Wales. It provides guidance to individuals, such as clinicians, managers and staff of hospitals, care homes, independent mental health advocates and approved mental health professionals on how they should proceed when applying the Act.
The new draft code takes account of the changes to relevant legislation since the previous code was written. These include the requirements of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 with regards to care and treatment planning and the expanded provision of independent mental health advocacy.
Crucially the draft code strengthens the emphasis on the involvement of patients and, where appropriate, their families and carers in all aspects of assessment and treatment; understanding the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and how these should apply to all care and treatment as well as the involvement of independent mental health advocates.
Other than stating the legal limit of 72 hours the existing code makes no proposals in relation to the timing of mental health assessments for people detained by the police under s136.
The new draft code proposes that a police station should never be used as a place of safety except in exceptional circumstances. Assessments – both at a police station and elsewhere – should be undertaken within three hours and detention in a police station should not exceed a maximum of 12 hours.
It also proposes that a statutory care and treatment plan, if needed, will be started no longer than 72 hours after admission to hospital.
Health and Social Services Minister, Mark Drakeford said:
“Since the creation of the distinct code of practice for Wales in 2008, there have been changes and updates in legislation, policy, case law, and professional practice, which are not reflected in the current code.
“Updating and revising the code is an important part of ensuring people’s rights are protected when they are detained.
“I would encourage everyone with an interest in improving the code responds to the consultation.
Hafal’s Chief Executive Alun Thomas said: ““We absolutely support the approach taken by the Welsh Government to ensure that the rights of people with a serious mental illness receive even greater protection.
“Limiting the time that a person can be detained without an assessment and seeking to cease the use of police cells for people who are mentally ill are significant improvements in this revised version of the Code.
“With an increased focus on guiding principles such as dignity and respect, fairness and equality, empowerment and involvement and use of the least restrictive option and maximising independence we can see a continued commitment to supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Wales in their recovery and we encourage as many people as possible to respond to this consultation.”
The consultation runs until November 27.