MHA code of practice not being used as intended

HEALTHCARE providers and staff are not using the Mental Health Act (MHA) code of practice as intended due to a lack of awareness and understanding of the statutory guidance, according to a new report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The report found variation in how the code of practice has been implemented and used across mental health services since last updated in 2015.

The code of practice is intended to help professionals interpret and apply the legislation to day-to-day decision making in practice and to provide safeguards to protect patients in mental health services. This includes guiding principles to be considered when decisions are being made about detaining patients under the MHA.

In the report the CQC recommends that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) develop standardised resources, support and training for patients, carers and staff so that they understand how the code should be applied and promote use of the guiding principles to improve practice and enable meaningful engagement with families and carers.

It also calls from improved usability and access to the code in “practical situations”, including how to make it digitally accessible, with links to other relevant guidance for quick support in day-to-day work.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals (lead for mental health) at the CQC, 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.

"We found that many providers lack 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. We also found limited awareness and understanding of the code amongst patients and their families and carers."