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The Government announced plans in the Queen’s Speech to bring forward legislation to reform the Mental Health Act 1983. The proposals include approaches to reduce the disproportionate number of individuals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities subject to compulsory detention and treatment. This POSTnote outlines research on race and ethnic inequalities in relation to the Act, summarises proposals for reform and stakeholder views. 

Key points

  • The 2021 Reforming the Mental Health Act White Paper includes measures and legislative changes to tackle inequalities faced by those from minority ethnic groups.  
  • People from most minority ethnic communities are more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 than the majority White population.  
  • Minority ethnic patients also experience inequalities relating to experiences and outcomes of detention. 
  • Many experts agree that tackling inequalities relating to the Mental Health Act requires both legislative change and systemic change to the mental health system.    
  • Stakeholders have welcomed many of the proposals in the White Paper but emphasise the need for wider commitments to improve access, experiences and outcomes for minorities in mental health care.


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer-reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:   

Members of the POST Board* 

NHSE/I National Mental Health Team*  

Andy Bell, Centre for Mental Health*  

Professor Dinesh Bhugra, King’s College London  

Professor Kamaldeep Bhui, University of Oxford*  

Tracey Bignall, Race Equality Foundation* 

Alison Cobb, Mind 

Steve Chamberlain, Chair of the AMHP Leads Network*  

Dr Jacqui Dyer, Independent Mental Health Consultant  

Danielle Fox, Rethink Mental Illness 

Dr Susham Gupta, East London NHS Foundation Trust 

Professor Stephani Hatch, King’s College London * 

Mat Kinton, Care Quality Commission* 

Professor Judy Laing, University of Bristol*  

Emad Lilo, Vice Chair of the AMHP Leads Network* 

Professor Steven Pilling, University College London  

Mary Sadid, National Survivor User Network  

Gill Williams, East London NHS Foundation Trust 

* denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.


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