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Wales proposes new limits on mental health detention

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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 proposals, people with suspected mental health issues detained under section 136 should be assessed within three hours and not be held in police custody for more than 12 hours.

“Updating and revising the code is an important part of ensuring people’s rights are protected when detained”

Mark Drakeford

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, which provides guidance to health professionals on how to 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.

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 section 136.

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 minister for Wales 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,” he said.

The consultation runs until 27 November.

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