Legislation

1882

Visiting Commissioners’ Report

The Lunacy Commission was set up following the 1845 Lunacy Act. This Government appointed group of lawyers and doctors oversaw the conditions of the asylums in England and Wales. Visiting Commissioners would go to each hospital twice a year to check it was running properly and would comment on how well the hospitals were following the legislation. They were particularly concerned with certification of patients as insane, regulating restraint and suicide prevention. This report mentions that good furniture had been supplied, but some still remained to be added, and that the doors of single rooms had not been hinged as to lie flat against the wall when opened (this could be a danger for people walking by). It also comments that the gas brackets may be interfered with patients.

1890 – 1983

Mental Health Acts

Following the compulsory building of county asylums in England and Wales, Parliament introduced further laws to regulate activities in 1845 and 1853. The Lunacy Act 1890 was passed in response to public concern that patients were being wrongfully detained, increasing controls on requirement for patient certification. It was only under the Mental Treatment Act of 1930 that voluntary admission was included. The Mental Health Act 1959 encouraged informal admissions, which meant that patients were entitled to similar rights that anyone being admitted for treatment into a general hospital would have. However, the 1959 Act later came under criticism by MIND (the National Association of Mental Health) who highlighted the legal inadequacies of legal rights for patients. The 1959 Act was eventually amended, resulting in the Mental Health Act 1983.

1930s

Regulations

In addition to legislation, local guidelines also governed nurses’ work. The nurses had the right to search a patient’s belongings after relatives had been to visit them. Sometimes relatives would give patients sweets and chocolate, which was permitted. Signs were put up by hospital management to make sure visitors knew the rules of the hospital. This sign is specifically about safety and taking caution around dangerous objects.

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36_001

1960

Patient Rights notice

This sign informs the patient of their rights under the Mental Health Act.

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