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The Mental Health Act

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The Mental Health Act 1983 deals with when it may be appropriate for someone with a mental health problem to be admitted into hospital against their will. This is sometimes called being 'sectioned' because people can be detained in hospital under different sections of the act. It is also known as an 'involuntary admission'.

The act also describes how support should be arranged for people once they are discharged from hospital.

The act is designed to protect the rights of people with mental health problems, and to ensure that they are only admitted to hospital against their will when it is absolutely essential to ensure their well-being or safety, or for the protection of other people.

Under the act doctors and other professionals are expected to consider all other treatment options first, and to only detain someone against their will as a last resort. If a person agrees to enter hospital voluntarily then the Mental Health Act should not be needed.

There are various sections in the act to cover different situations, each of them giving health and social care professionals different powers to admit people to hospital against their will.

You can find information on the different sections of the act, and what they mean, on the following websites:

(Content based on Mind website)

Before you can be detained under the Act, you must be examined by two doctors and interviewed by an Approved Mental Health Professional or AMHP (usually a social worker, nurse, occupational therapist or psychologist).  Preferably you will be seen by these professionals at the same time, but sometimes circumstances mean that they will have to see you at different times.  In all cases the two doctors will decide if they agree that you meet the criteria for detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 and, if satisfied, complete recommendations to this effect.  The AMHP must interview you and be satisfied that detention in hospital is, given all the circumstances of your case, the most appropriate and least restrictive way of providing the care and medical treatment you need.  If the AMHP agrees then the AMHP will make an application for you to be detained against your will at a hospital.

Upon completing this application the power is given to the AMHP (or someone nominated by the AMHP) to take you to the hospital that has agreed to accept you as a detained patient.  When you are at the hospital, you will then be admitted onto a ward and the papers provided by the AMHP gives the hospital the power to detain you against your will.

You can find out much more information about how assessments are carried out under the Mental Health Act on the following websites:

People who are admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act are entitled to help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate. The advocate is a person who is independent of the hospital and is employed to speak on your behalf. They can help you discuss your feelings about your care and what support you may need in the future.

You should automatically be offered the support of an IMHA by hospital staff.

The  Advocacy Project offers advocacy for those living with mental health issues in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea

(Content based on Mind website)

Anyone who may have a need for community care services is entitled to a social care assessment when they are discharged from hospital to establish what services they might need.

However, Section 117 of the Mental Health Act goes much further than this and imposes a duty on health and social services to provide aftercare services to certain patients who have been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Section 117 states that aftercare services must be provided to patients who have been detained in hospital:

  • For treatment under Section 3
  • Under a hospital order pursuant to Section 37 (with or without a restriction order) or
  • Following transfer from prison under Section 47 or 48.

The following websites provide more information on section 117 aftercare:

The following websites all provide independent information on the Mental Health Act:-

You can read the Mental Health Act in full at the government's legislation website.

The NHS website provide a guide to all the professionals that you may come into contact with within the mental health system

Easy read buttonThe Easy Health website has gathered together various  easy-to-read leaflets which will help people with learning disabilities to understand more about the Mental Health Act.

Last updated: 09/07/2021