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Nearest relative

Explains what a nearest relative is, including what powers and rights they have and how you can change your nearest relative.

What information about me will my nearest relative be told?

Your nearest relative has the right to be told certain information about your mental health. This includes:

  • if an application is being made to section you
  • the reasons you have been detained in hospital
  • your rights under section, community treatment order (CTO) or guardianship
  • if you are put on a CTO or guardianship order
  • if your section, CTO or guardianship is renewed or changed
  • if you are discharged.

When might my nearest relative not be informed or consulted?

Your nearest relative may not be informed if:

  • it would take a long time to locate them
  • they are unwell
  • it will have a negative impact on you
  • it is not possible to find out who your nearest relative is.

If you are going to be sectioned, staying in hospital or discharged from hospital, you have the right to say that you do not want information about your care or treatment to be passed on to your nearest relative. You can do this even if you have not gone to court to replace your nearest relative.

For example, normally the hospital managers must tell your nearest relative when you are due to be discharged, but if you give instructions that they should not tell your nearest relative this or share other information about you, they should respect your wishes.

However, there must be very good reasons why you don't want your nearest relative to be told information about you. This is because the nearest relative can object to you being put on a section 3, which is an important power that no-one else has, so they could prevent you from being detained. This is balancing your Article 5 and Article 8 rights of the Human Rights Act. For more information see our pages on  the Human Rights Act 1998.

It is important that you let your team know if you do not want your nearest relative to be told information about you.


Hari has a history of being physically abused as a child. His father went to prison because of it and they do not have any contact.

Hari is under section and will be going home in a few days' time. He lives in a flat, which he shares with his friends.

He is told that his father, as his nearest relative, should normally be informed when Hari is going to be discharged from hospital because it is the duty of the hospital managers to do this.

Hari says that he absolutely does not want his father to be told this or any other information about him. The hospital should respect his wishes.

View this legal guide as a PDF (opens new window)

This information was published in November 2020.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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