Explains what a nearest relative is, including what powers and rights they have and how you can change your nearest relative.
If you have a mental health problem, your nearest relative will have certain powers and rights related to your care and treatment.
The UK Government is changing the Mental Health Act.
- Nearest relative is a special term used in the Mental Health Act 1983.
- It gives one member of your family certain rights and responsibilities if you are kept in hospital under sections 2, 3, 4 or 37, on a community treatment order, or under a guardianship.
- The Mental Health Act has a list of who will be your nearest relative. The list is in strict order and the person who is highest on the list is your nearest relative.
- You can change your nearest relative in certain situations.
The nearest relative is a family member who has certain responsibilities and powers if you are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. These include the right to information and to discharge in some situations.
The law sets out a list to decide who will be your nearest relative. This can sometimes be changed.
See our pages on the nearest relative for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)
This is a law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental health disorder and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.
See our pages on the Mental Health Act for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Community treatment order (CTO)
If you have been sectioned and treated in hospital under certain sections, your responsible clinician can put you on a CTO. This means that you can be discharged from the section and leave hospital, but you might have to meet certain conditions such as living in a certain place, or going somewhere for medical treatment. Sometimes, if you don't follow the conditions or you become unwell, you can be returned to hospital.
See our pages on CTOs for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This is where someone called a 'guardian' is appointed instead of being sectioned and kept in hospital. Your guardian could be a person or a local authority.
You can only be placed under guardianship if it's necessary for your welfare or to protect other people. Your guardian has the power to make certain decisions about you and to make conditions that you will be asked to keep to, such as where you live.
Guardianship lasts for up to six months and can be renewed: initially for a further six months, and then for a year at a time. You can appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal once in each of these periods.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This information was published in November 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
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