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22 Mental Health
3. Who decides if I should be detained in hospital?
The decision must normally be made by two doctors and a third person, who must all agree that it is necessary for you to be detained.
At least one of the doctors must have special experience with mental disorders. And, if possible, one of the doctors should know you (for example, your GP).
The third person is usually an 'approved social worker' (ASW), who is a social worker with specialist training and experience in dealing with people with a mental disorder.
A close relative, called your 'nearest relative' can also apply for you to be detained, but this doesn't happen very often (see 'What powers does my family have?').
The two doctors and the approved social worker must assess your mental health needs and decide whether the conditions for detaining you are met. They should make sure that you have the chance to explain your views, in particular:
If you would like to have with you a friend or someone else to help you during the assessment, ask the approved social worker to contact them for you. However, in some cases the doctors and social worker may want to speak to you on your own. If you need an interpreter, one should be provided for you.
After assessing your mental health needs, the doctors and approved social worker must each make their own decision about whether you need to be detained in hospital.
You should be detained in hospital only if this is the best thing for you. If the doctors and the approved social worker decide that you don't need to be detained, the social worker should make other care arrangements for you.
They should make other care arrangements only after talking about it with you and with:
What about people who lack the capacity to agree to be detained?
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regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.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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