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Section 1 of this briefing looks at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the population’s mental health and the NHS and Government response. It covers provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which provided for temporary changes to the detention and treatment of patients under the Mental Health Act 1983. These provisions were not brought into force.

Section 2 provides a timeline of recent Government and NHS mental health policies in England. In February 2016 an Independent Mental Health Taskforce published The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. This made a series of recommendations for the NHS and Government to improve outcomes in mental health by 2020/21. The Government and NHS England accepted the recommendations and committed to implementation. The NHS Long Term Plan of 7 January 2019 included further commitments to improve mental health services. In 2022 the Government issued a call for evidence to inform a new, 10-year cross-government Mental health and wellbeing plan.

Section 3 looks at mental health expenditure, including the creation of a new ring-fenced local investment fund worth at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24.

Section 4 covers inequalities in mental health and the strategies the Government has proposed to address them. This includes plans to promote ‘levelling up’ in the wake of Covid-19 and addressing racial inequalities in mental health outcomes and access to treatment.

Section 5 outlines current guidance on the use of force in mental health settings, including the Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act and NICE guidelines. It also covers provisions in the Mental Health Units (Use of Force Act) 2018, also known as ‘Seni’s Law’, which came into force at the end of March 2022.

Section 6 sets out progress on reforming the Mental Health Act 1983. In October 2017, the Government commissioned an independent review of the Act in response to rising rates of detention and the disproportionate use of the Act among people from black and minority ethnic groups. The Government published the white paper, Reforming the Mental Health Act, in January 2021. Following a consultation period, the Government response was published in July 2021. A draft Mental Health Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech 2022.

As health is a devolved matter, the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for setting their own policies in this area. Links to policies of devolved administrations are provided in section 7 of this briefing. Links to Library briefings on more specific areas of mental health policy are provided in section 8.

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