On 29 July 2011, the DH published a consultation response detailing a range of temporary changes to the Mental Health Act 1983 (the MHA) which could be introduced, if necessary, in the event of an influenza pandemic which had a severe impact on health and social care services.

The full list of potential temporary changes which would require legislative change was finalised following a consultation exercise in autumn 2009 and can be found at annex C of Pandemic Influenza and the Mental Health Act 1983 - Response to Consultation on Proposed Changes to the Mental Health Act 1983 and its Associated Secondary Legislation.

The aim of the temporary changes is to ensure that mental health professionals could continue to operate the provisions of the MHA in the best interests of the health and safety of patients and for the protection of others in what would be truly exceptional circumstances.

NHS managers have been asked to ensure that the issues identified in the consultation response document are included in their pandemic preparedness plans.