A report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that the "Mental Health Act (MHA) Code of Practice" is not being used as it was intended due to a lack of awareness and understanding of the statutory guidance amongst providers and staff.

The review looked into how well the "MHA Code of Practice" has been implemented and used across mental health services since it was last updated in 2015. Variation was found in providers’ understanding of the guidance and how it should be applied.

The guidance is aimed at professionals and those working in services to help them interpret and apply the legislation to decision making in day-to-day practice, and to provide safeguards for involving and protecting people in mental health services.

The CQC's review found that many providers lacked understanding about how to promote, apply and report on the Code’s guiding principles. As a result, they were not always being used by services to empower and involve people in decisions being made about their care. The commission found that some ward staff did not always know when a referral to an Independent Mental Health Advocate should be made.

Feedback from stakeholders also identified that low awareness of the Code of Practice and limited support to understand how it applies to mental health providers were barriers to the guidance being used by patients, families and carers to challenge poor practice or raise concerns and complaints.

The CQC was told that the size and breadth of the Code of Practice made it difficult to plan and deliver effective training for staff and professionals, with some providers saying they had not yet updated their training to reflect the 2015 Code of Practice.

CQC Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott said: “Use of the MHA to detain people in mental health services is more common than when the Code of Practice was first created 26 years ago. That makes it even more important that the Code is clear, accessible and supports the legal safeguards that protect people’s human rights and autonomy."

The CQC recommended that the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) develop standardised resources, support and training for patients, carers and staff to help them understand the Code and how and when it should be applied.

Last reviewed 9 July 2019