The Coronavirus Act and mental health law
We have seen so many changes happening since Coronavirus arrived at the start of the year. However, all of these changes were made really quickly in response to a situation that was evolving constantly. It has often felt like we are waiting each day for another update from the government about what’s changing next and when.
When the lockdown first arrived, we were following new rules about how we live. These included restrictions on how often we left our homes, who we saw, and how far we could travel. Therefore, police had new powers of enforcement and these powers became law.
The Coronavirus Act 2020
The Government opted to introduce new legislation, called The Coronavirus Act 2020, to help the country cope with the demands caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And some of this legislation affects people who may be living with severe mental illness.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Mental Health Act (MHA)
The Coronavirus Act 2020 authorised emergency changes to the Mental Health Act (MHA). It’s important to remember that these changes were in response to Coronavirus, and are temporary. They apply if services become short-staffed and can’t use the proper processes. However, even though some processes have been made easier or simpler, professionals must also ensure people’s basic human rights are protected.
The key changes under these emergency laws are:
- The decision to detain a person under the MHA will use one doctor’s opinion (usually it’s two).
- Time limits on how long someone is detained could be extended or suspended.
Detention for assessment
There are two changes to the MHA that apply to detention for assessment:
- Section 2, where a person might be detained for longer than the usual 28 days to assess their mental health.
- Section 3, once the diagnosis is established, a person can be sectioned for longer than the normal 6 months.