Healthcare Law Update: Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act 2001 – Potential Implications

26 June 2015

On 5 March 2015, Minister Kathleen Lynch published the Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act 2001 and indicated that her department would draft a general scheme of a bill to reflect the Group’s proposed changes to the legislation.

The recommendations are extensive and the result of a detailed and thorough review of the Act and of practice.  Many embrace the rights based approach to mental health and should be, and have been, welcomed by mental health practitioners ("MHPs") and other stakeholders.  

This e-zine focusses on some of the potential legal consequences of the recommendations. It deliberately seeks to challenge and test some of those recommendations.  Not to be contrarian for the sake of it, but to ensure that any legislative proposals have been well thought out and have been ‘put through their paces’ before being enacted. When these proposals are made law, service users and MHPs will together have to work with them, and clinical decisions made under the Act are subject to review in the courts (whether by habeas corpus, judicial review or statutory appeal). 

Frequently, the key matter before the court is the legal minutiae of the interpretation of a legislative provision. MHPs and institutions are not lawyers, and they have to operate the procedures laid down in legislation on a day to day basis without a lawyer at the bedside.  It is crucial therefore that any provisions that are potentially unclear, or that may present significant clinical challenges, are debated well in advance of any draft legislation, so that all stakeholders, including service users and MHPs, can have confidence in any new legislation. 



For more information, please contact a member of our Healthcare team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.