The Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended in 2007) reform – How proposed changes potentially impact personality disorder services

Elsevier, Forensic Science International: Mind and Law, Volume 2, November 2021
Authors: 
Heym N., Mudholkar S., Sumich A.L., Kumari V.

At the beginning of this year, the UK government released a White Paper on Reforms of the 1983 Mental Health Act (MHA) aiming to achieve higher quality, accessible mental health care, as well as empowering people detained under MHA during the process and continuation of detention. In this piece, we focus on the potential impact of the proposal around appropriate care, management and detention of people with Personality Disorder (PD) within the criminal justice system (CJS), psychiatric service provision and community routes. We briefly review the historical context of reforms of PD services in the UK and discuss the proposed changes and issues in relation to the criteria of least restriction, detention and therapeutic benefit. We highlight the complexity around referral routes and logistics barriers for secure PD services that might hamper speeded referral routes and raise concerns around responsibility for authorisation of transfers in the context of risk of serious harm to the public. We emphasise the complex treatment needs of individuals with PDs and how these are potentially not met. We also discuss the shift of focus from reactive care to preventative measures and early intervention in the community for individuals with mild-to-moderate levels of PD. We highlight the need for appropriate integrative services in the community to facilitate assessment across services, identification of complex needs and support options including earlier routine screening and potential digital interventions to optimise specialised care for PD.