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22 Mental Health

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1. Introduction

2. What is the Mental Health Act for?

3. Who decides if I should be detained in hospital?

4. When can I be detained in hospital?

5. When can I be given compulsory treatment?

6. What treatment can I be given?

7. Who can discharge me from hospital?

8. What are my rights in hospital?

9. What if I am unhappy with my care and treatment?

10. Will I get help when I leave hospital?

Before you leave hospital, your responsible medical officer should make sure that your health and social care needs are assessed and that there is a care plan for you. Your responsible medical officer and other people who have been caring for you, such as a social worker and community psychiatric nurse, will look at what you will need when you leave hospital. This may be called 'aftercare planning' or 'care programme approach' (CPA).

If you have been detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act, you have the right to the health and social care services that you have been assessed as needing when you leave hospital (section 117 of the Act).

These 'aftercare services' can include:

  • somewhere to live;
  • social care support;
  • home help; and
  • using a day centre.

The people who assess you should talk to you before they decide what support you should get. You should let people know what you think you will need. If a friend or relative regularly helps or supports you, they could also take part in these discussions. Under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000, someone who is 16 or older and spends a lot of time caring for you can also be assessed to see if they need any help. For more about this, see the CLS Direct leaflet 'Community Care'.

Your lawyer (or other representative) could also be involved in planning your aftercare. This would be useful if you are not happy with what is being suggested, or if you are worried that the people arranging your aftercare are taking too long.

What controls can there be on me when I am living in the community?
Your responsible medical officer may let you leave the hospital for a certain time, for example for a couple of hours, a weekend or a longer period. But they may let you leave only if you meet certain conditions, such as staying at a particular place.

Your responsible medical officer may also 'recall' you (make you go back) to hospital at any time.

Supervised discharge
If you are detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act and you are 16 or over, your responsible medical officer may apply for a 'supervised discharge' when you leave hospital. This means that a person (usually a social worker or psychiatric nurse) will be named as your supervisor and will keep in touch with you after you leave hospital. You may also have to meet certain conditions, such as:

  • living at a particular place; and
  • going to an outpatients clinic for treatment.

However, even though your supervisor can take you to a place where you must go as one of these conditions, they cannot make you have a treatment if you do not want it.

The doctor in charge of your aftercare may end the supervised discharge at any time. You can also apply to a mental health review tribunal if you want to end the supervised discharge.

Guardianship is a scheme used mostly for people with learning disabilities and elderly people with mental health problems such as dementia. You must be 16 or over and must need a guardian for your welfare or to protect other people.

Your guardian can be a local council or a person. As with a supervised discharge, you may have to:

  • live at a particular place; and
  • go to a particular place for treatment, work, education or training (though they cannot force you to go to these places if you don't want to).

Your nearest relative can object to the guardianship if they don't agree with it, and can end it. If you don't agree with the guardianship, you can ask a mental health review tribunal to end it.

11. What powers do the police have against people with mental health problems?

12. Mental health and The Human Rights Act

13. Terms used in mental health law

14. Further help

15. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Camilla Parker, and independent consultant specialising in mental health law and policy.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: November 2019

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