'Police cells will no longer be used to detain people experiencing mental illness, Theresa May has announced as part of a package of measures that she says will “overhaul” the government’s approach to mental health.
Weeks before she is due to leave office, the prime minister has unveiled a commitment to overhaul the controversial Mental Health Act in order to make it “fit for modern society”.
It comes two years after she pledged to “rip up” the act, which allows patients to be kept on a secure ward and treated against their will – a process that has been branded “outdated”, particularly due to its disproportionate use on black people.
An independent review into the act last year found that sweeping reforms would be needed to restore rights to mental health patients and end the “burning injustice” which means people from ethnic minorities were disproportionately sectioned.
It revealed black people were four times more likely to be detained under the act than whites, and that there was a need to challenge attitudes and – largely unconscious – biases towards ethnic minority patients which led to excessive use of restraint and “community treatment orders”.
In 2017/18, some 49,551 people were detained under the Mental Health Act and the average cost of each detention has been estimated at £18,315 – for a bill of more than £900m a year.
While there has been a 95 per cent fall in the use of police cells and custody suites as a place of safety since 2011, they still accounted for 3.9 per cent of detentions in 2016/17, figures showed.'
Read more: Using police cells to detain people with mental illness to be banned under new reforms
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