The Mental Health Act

There are many people who living in the community with differing mental health issues. They may be referred to a counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist by their GP and visit them voluntarily. Mental Health Act powers do not apply to these people.

Gil Baldwin

The Mental Health Act provides clinical professionals with the legal framework to detain someone in an inpatient facility for assessment or treatment of their mental disorder.


These legal powers can be used if the person's mental illness creates a risk to their own health or safety or to other people. It also allows certain patients to be discharged from detention by means of a Community Treatment Order (CTO) while remaining liable to recall to inpatient care for further medical treatment if necessary.


How long can a person be detained?

People can be detained as patients for different lengths of time. Patients have the right to know why they have been detained and how long for. The law states that the professionals must review their detention periodically to confirm whether it is still necessary.

  • Section 2 allows a person to be detained for up to 28 days in order to be assessed for their mental disorder.  During this time the doctor can ask for an assessment under section 3 of the Act.
  • Section 3 allows a person to be detained initially for up to six months so they can receive treatment as an inpatient. If necessary, detention under Section 3 can be renewed for a further six months and then yearly thereafter.
  • Someone who has committed a crime and has a mental disorder can be admitted to an inpatient facility for assessment or treatment. This can apply to people who are sentenced or awaiting sentencing. The Ministry of Justice can place a Restriction Order on these patients and while this order remains in force it does not have to be renewed.


How can a patient appeal against their detention?

Patients have the right to appeal to the Service Directors or to the First-Tier Tribunal – Mental Health.  Both are independent bodies whose purpose is to review cases of detained patients.  They can direct the discharge of patients where they feel it is appropriate.

For more information on the role of Service Directors use the contact details opposite.  Information on the function of the First-Tier Tribunal can be found in Mental Health Tribunal guidance.

Patients detained via an application under Section 2 or Section 3 of the Act may have someone called 'a nearest relative'.  This is important because it gives various rights in connection with detention, supervised community treatment and guardianship.  A nearest relative can write to the care provider or to the First-Tier Tribunal and request discharge of their relative. Please note that the nearest relative is not the same as a patient’s next of kin.

The patient’s doctor can also discharge them from detention at any time, unless the patient is subject to a Restriction Order.


Compulsory Treatment

The Mental Health Act states detained patients can be given 'compulsory treatment'. Patients can be given treatment immediately without their consent for up to three months, unless admitted under Section 35 of the Act  (which allows the Courts to remand a person to an inpatient facility for a report on their mental condition).

After three months, the patient’s doctor can continue with the treatment, with the patient’s agreement.  However, if the patient does not agree or does not understand their treatment, the doctor will need to obtain consent from an independent doctor known as a 'Second Opinion Appointed Doctor' (SOAD) to continue the treatment.  This is done by the Care Quality Commission.


Mental Health Act Team at St Andrew’s

The role of the Mental Health Act team is to ensure patient’s legal detention and rights are maintained under the Mental Health Act or other associated legislation.