Archive for the ‘Mental Health Act’ category

The 1930 Mental Treatment Act

May 30th, 2011

As one of our comments resulted in such a good response from the Historical Society I thought I would give some more information in a post.

The Mental Treatment Act 1930

Under the highly legalistic and bureaucratic ‘Lunacy Act of 1890’, individuals were usually admitted to an ‘asylum’ following a formal, legal process that resulted in the person being ‘certified’ (received into hospital via a legal ‘reception order’- signed by a justice of the peace and accompanied by medical recommendation(s)) for care and treatment. Such admission requirements were modified according to whether the patient was of ‘private’ or ‘pauper’ status, and the degree of perceived urgency for such admissions. The 1930 ‘Mental Treatment Act’, which came into force on 1st. January 1931, established a less formalised system of admission, making a new provision for ‘voluntary’ admissions.

‘Voluntary patients’ sought admission for assessment and treatment under their own ‘free will’, without the need for the formalised legal process of ‘certification’. The person could also discharge themselves voluntarily, giving 72 hours notice to do so. For the first time, too, individuals could seek voluntary treatment within hospital, as an outpatient.

Reflecting changing social trends and attitudes, the 1930 Act also replaced terms such as ‘lunacy’, ‘lunatic’ and ‘asylum’ with the terms ‘mental illness’, ‘person of unsound mind’ and ‘mental hospital’.

The 1930 Act was also an attempt to demystify and destigmatise ‘mental illness’ per se, and to place it on a par with physical illness. Indeed, the second physician superintendent of Whitchurch Hospital, Dr. McKeowan, hailed the new Act as a ‘Magna Carta’ for patient rights and liberty.

Thanks to Mike Jones for this contribution.