Implementing proposed reforms of the Mental Health Act for people with intellectual disability and autism: the perspective of multidisciplinary professionals in intellectual disability teams

Regi Alexander

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Abstract

Background
A recent government white paper sets out proposals for reforms to the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA). Some of these proposals affect people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism.

Aims
To explore both positive and unintended negative effects of the proposed reforms by gathering the perspectives of healthcare workers from multiple disciplines, working with intellectual disability and/or autism in community and in-patient settings.

Method
A 14-question electronic questionnaire, comprising free-text, multiple choice and five-point Likert scale responses, was sent out via email between April and July 2021, to all multidisciplinary team professionals working in specialist intellectual disability community and in-patient teams in Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.

Results
There were 45 responders, of whom 53% worked in in-patient settings and 47% in out-patient teams. Respondents comprised healthcare professionals from multiple disciplines, 80% of which were non-medical. Most responders agreed with the general principles of the proposed reforms. However, 80% felt there would be potentially unintended consequences, and 76% thought that substantial investment in community services was required in advance of the proposed reforms.

Conclusions
The proposed MHA reforms may have unintended consequences for people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. The findings of this study raised key concerns that need to be explored further and addressed before the MHA reforms are implemented. These include community provision, safeguards and use of the Mental Capacity Act, the potential for under or overdiagnosis of mental illness, and effects associated with the criminal justice system.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere197
Number of pages7
JournalBJPsych Open
Volume8
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2022

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