Mentally ill patients are to receive ‘stronger protection’, more independence and less restrictive treatments following today’s publication of a revised code of practice for the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983, the Department of Health has announced.

Patients are also to have personalised care plans and be treated with due regard to human rights and equality legislation.

The revised code is aimed at solicitors and others involved in a patient’s care and treatment, including carers, families, and attorneys executing lasting or enduring powers of attorney.

In a ministerial foreword to the revised code, health secretary Jeremy Hunt and care and support minister Norman Lamb wrote: ‘We are confident that we have succeeded in producing a revised code which… presents information in a straightforward and accessible way for all who use it.’

The revised code includes five new guiding principles that will underpin the MHA. The first of these is, if the patient can be treated ‘safely and lawfully’ without detention, then there should be no detention; and also that the minimum restriction possible should be imposed during treatment.

The second, ‘empowerment and involvement’, specifies that – where practicable – patients should be involved in planning their own care and told of all forms of assistance available to help them.

The third focuses on ‘respect and dignity’ and warns professionals to avoid ‘unlawful discrimination’ against the mentally unwell.

The fourth and fifth new principles concern ‘purpose and effectiveness’ and ‘efficiency and equity’ respectively. These urge professionals to act in accordance with the latest guidelines and to give equal priority to mental health and physical health conditions.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the new code will come into force on 1 April.

Read the code here.