Blog, 15th January 2018
The Mental Health Act defines ‘mental disorder’ to describe the cohort of people who may be subject to the application of the Act. The existing definition is clear that learning disability itself is not a mental disorder. However, it then says “unless that disability is associated with abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on his part”. That additional clause allows the Act to be applied. This means in effect that people with a learning disability and/or autism can be detained for assessment and treatment, using the same legislative framework that is applied to people with a treatable mental health condition.
“We have seen too many examples of people detained in hospital, sometimes many miles away from their families, resulting in distress for both the person and their families to precious little therapeutic benefit.”
The Mental Health Act review offers an opportunity to change the law. Myself and a number of colleagues from both NHS England and NHS Improvement are arguing that the issue of detaining people with learning disabilities and/or autism who don’t have a diagnosed mental health condition ought to be included in the review.
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