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The Percy Commission

Chaired by Baron Percy of Newcastle, the Royal Commission on the Law Relating to Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency (the Percy Commission) was set up in 1954 to review the existing legislative framework governing detention and care of people with mental illness. It sought to understand whether those people could be treated on a voluntary basis.

Reporting back in 1957, the commission concluded that:

'The law should be altered so that whenever possible suitable care may be provided for mentally disordered patients with no more restriction of liberty or legal formality than is applied to people who need care because of other types of illness, disability or social difficulty'.

The commission also made the following recommendations:

  • where possible, people with 'mental disorders' should be treated in the community and not in large psychiatric institutions. This required an expansion of community services
  • the barriers between the wider health system and mental health treatment should be broken down, with the latter absorbed into the NHS
  • local authorities should provide accommodation to the mentally ill under the provisions of the National Assistance Act 1948 and the National Health Service Act 1946.

House of Commons.
Mental illness and mental deficiency report debate; HC Deb 8 July 1957 vol 573 cc35-103.
Hansard; 1957.

Lewis E O.
Report of the Royal Commission on the law relating to mental illness and mental deficiency (1954-1957).
London: H.M.S.O; 1957.