The Government will reform mental health rules, aim to clear the NHS backlog caused by the Covid pandemic, and give a renewed focus to women’s health, according to the Queen’s Speech.
In previously-announced reforms, the Prince of Wales set out how the Government is redrawing the Mental Health Act to give patients greater rights, with a choice over who represents them, and an end to arbitrary mental health detentions.
The move will make it easier for people with learning disabilities and autism to be discharged from hospital, and there is also a plan to “end the existing disparities in the use of the Act for people from ethnic minority backgrounds – especially for detentions and for the use of community treatment orders”.
The definition of mental disorder will further be amended so that people can no longer be detained solely because they have a learning disability or because they are autistic.
The reforms will also see criteria altered so that people can only be detained when strictly necessary – where the person is a genuine risk to their own safety or that of others, and where there is a clear therapeutic benefit.
Also in the Speech are plans for 33 new maternal mental health services to be made available across the whole of England by March 2024.
Some 399 mental health teams will also work in schools and colleges from next year.
When it comes to clearing the treatment backlog across the wider NHS, the Queen’s Speech included previously-announced plans and how they will be financed.
The NHS resource budget in England will increase to £162.6 billion in 2024/25, up from £123.7 billion in 2019/20, including £8 million for clearing the treatment backlog.
Some 40 new hospitals by 2030 have already been announced, alongside moving more technology and staff into diagnostic hubs in the community so people can be seen more quickly.
The Speech also set out plans for more community pop-up clinics, more face-to-face GP appointments, and new cancer screening machines, alongside new targets for how long people can expect to wait.
These include – as previously announced – that by March 2023 “we will return the number of people waiting more than 62 days to start treatment after being urgently referred due to suspected cancer back to pre-pandemic levels”.
Elsewhere, the Government has been seeking the views of women and those providing specialist services as part of its new Women’s Health Strategy.
The Speech set out a plan to end “decades of sex-based health disparities” when the new strategy is published later this year.
It will look at menstrual health and gynaecological conditions, fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and post-natal support, the menopause, healthy ageing and long-term conditions.
There will also be sections on mental health, the health impacts of violence against women and girls, and how women’s voices are represented in services and policies.
In consultation for the strategy, women said they wanted the Government to focus on these top five priorities – gynaecological conditions; fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and post-natal support; the menopause; menstrual health; and mental health.