Monitoring the Mental Health Act in 2021 to 2022

Published: 1 December 2022 Page last updated: 22 March 2024


Appendix B: CQC as a part of the UK National Preventive Mechanism

The UK ratified the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2003. In doing so it committed to establish a ‘National Preventive Mechanism’ (NPM), which is an independent monitoring body to carry out regular visits to places of detention to prevent torture and other ill-treatment. An NPM must have, as a minimum, the powers to:

  • regularly examine the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in all places of detention
  • make recommendations to relevant authorities with the aim of improving the treatment and conditions of persons deprived of their liberty
  • submit proposals and observations on existing or draft legislation.

The UK NPM, established in 2009, consists of separate statutory bodies that independently monitor places of detention. CQC is the designated NPM for deprivation of liberty in health and social care across England. We operate as an NPM whenever we carry out regulatory or other visiting activity to health and social care providers where people may be deprived of their liberty. A key focus of our NPM visiting role is our activity in monitoring the MHA.

Being part of the NPM brings both recognition and responsibilities. NPM members’ powers to inspect, monitor and visit places of detention are formally recognised as part of the UK’s efforts to prevent torture and ill-treatment. At the same time, NPM members have the responsibility to ensure that their working practices are consistent with standards for preventive monitoring established by OPCAT. There is also an expectation that NPMs will cooperate and support each other internationally.

The Association for the Prevention of Torture, an international NGO that works with NPMs across the world, has set out the following main elements an approach that prevents ill-treatment:

  • Proactive rather than reactive: preventive visits can take place at any time, even when there is no apparent problem or specific complaints from detainees.
  • Regular rather than one-off: preventive detention monitoring is a systematic and ongoing process, which means that visits should occur on a regular basis.
  • Global rather than individual: preventive visits focus on analysing the place of detention as a system and assessing all aspects related to the deprivation of liberty, to identify problems that could lead to torture or ill-treatment.
  • Cooperation rather than denunciation: preventive visits are part of an ongoing and constructive dialogue with relevant authorities, providing concrete recommendations to improve the detention system over the long term.

The NPM publishes an annual report of its work, which is presented to Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.