Mental Health Act

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The Mental Health Act sets out how a person can be 'detained' - that is admitted and treated in hospital against their wishes. Patients are detained using different 'sections' of the Act. Detailed below are details of the most frequently used 'sections' including a brief description of their purpose.

To view Mental Health Act information videos and leaflets in 28 languages click here. Provided by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust.

Main sections

Section 2
This section lasts for up to 28 days. Two doctors and an approved mental health professional decide when a person is put on Section 2. While on a Section 2 a senior doctor known as a responsible clinician will be in charge of their care and treatment.

Section 3
This lasts for up to six months. Two doctors and an approved mental health professional decide when a person is put on Section 3. While on Section 3, a senior doctor called a responsible clinician will be in charge of their care and treatment. The main purpose of Section 3 is to treat the person for their mental health problem.

If a person is under Section 3 and is ready to leave hospital, they have a right to receive aftercare (known as Section 117). This is to help with their mental health needs as they return to the community and is free of charge.

If under Section 3, a person's responsible clinician may talk to them about leaving hospital under supervised community treatment. Sometimes this is called a Community Treatment Order (CTO). Leaving hospital under a CTO means that the person must continue to have treatment in the community. While on a CTO, the person might be brought back to hospital if their care team are concerned about them.

Section 4
If a person came to hospital under Section 4, it means the approved mental health professional assessing them was very concerned about the individual and needed to act quickly. Section 4 means only one doctor saw the person. Section 4 only lasts for up to 72 hours and is usually followed by Section 2 or Section 3.

Section 5(2)
If a person came to hospital without being on a Section, they would be an 'informal' or 'voluntary' patient. If they wanted to leave and this was not considered appropriate, the decision would be made to assess them under Section 2 or Section 3.

It takes time to carry out an assessment and sometimes a person is placed under Section 5(2) to stop them from leaving. Section 5(2) is done by one doctor and only lasts up to 72 hours. It is sometimes called a 'holding power'. During the 72 hours the person would be assessed for Section 2 or 3.

Section 5(4)
If a doctor was not available to use Section 5(2) (see above) a nurse may have stopped a person leaving by placing them under Section 5(4). This section only lasts up to six hours and ends when a doctor comes to see them.

Section 136
A small number of people are brought to hospital under Section 136. This is a power which a police officer can use if a person was in a public place because the police officer was concerned about them.

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