Nearest relative

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

Can my nearest relative request a mental health assessment?

Yes. Anyone can request a mental health assessment by contacting your local social services or community mental health team.

However, the local social services team only has a duty to consider a nearest relative's request. If they decide not to section you, they must give written reasons.

When can my nearest relative section me or place me under a guardianship?

If your nearest relative is concerned about your mental health, they can contact your local social services or community mental health team and apply to section you or place you under a guardianship – although in reality, it is normally an approved mental health professional who will make this application. (To find out more about the sectioning process, see our information on sectioning.)

Your nearest relative can apply to section you or place you under a guardianship in these circumstances:

Section 2

A section 2 is used if you have not had a mental health problem before and need to be assessed. It is sometimes used if the doctors don’t know you, for example, if you are in a different area.

To section you, your nearest relative would need to:

  • fill out a form A1 (England) or form HO1 (Wales)
  • get two doctors to agree that you should be admitted to hospital. One of the doctors would need to know you before the assessment, for example, your GP. The doctors need to complete a specific form and to give reasons as to why you meet the criteria.

Section 3

A section 3 is used if you are known to psychiatric services. For example, you already have a mental health diagnosis or are receiving treatment.

To section you, your nearest relative would need to:

  • fill out a form A5 (England) or form HO5 (Wales)
  • get two doctors to agree that you should be admitted to hospital. One of the doctors would need to know you before the assessment, for example, your GP. The doctors need to complete a specific form and give reasons as to why you meet the criteria.

Section 4

A section 4 is used in an emergency only, where you need to be admitted to hospital under section 2 but cannot delay while waiting for the second medical assessment. You could be detained for up to 72 hours.

To section you, your nearest relative would need to:

  • fill out a form A9 (England) or form HO9 (Wales)
  • get a recommendation from one doctor.

Guardianship

Guardianship is very rarely used but is used for people that can be cared for in the community.

To place you under a guardianship, your nearest relative would need to:

  • fill out a form G1 (England) or form GU1 (Wales)
  • get two doctors to agree that you should be admitted to hospital. One of the doctors would need to know you before the assessment, for example, your GP. The doctors need to complete a specific form and to give reasons as to why you meet the criteria.

Can my nearest relative object if I'm going to be sectioned or placed under a guardianship?

Yes – you cannot be detained under section 3 or be placed under a guardianship if your nearest relative disagrees.

To object, your nearest relative needs to tell the approved mental health professional and give them reasons why they disagree. This can be done verbally or in writing.

But if the AMHP thinks that your nearest relative is being unreasonable by disagreeing, they can apply to change the nearest relative to someone else (also known as displacement).

You can be detained under section 2 and 4 even if your nearest relative disagrees.

Can my nearest relative discharge me from hospital?

Your nearest relative can write to the hospital managers to tell them that they want to discharge you if you are on a section 2, 3 or 4 or are subject to a community treatment order or guardianship from a section 3. These rules do not apply if you are on a section 37 or have been put on an order from a section 37.

Example discharge letter

Download an example letter for nearest relatives to use which is taken from the Mental Health Act Code of Practice. (Word or PDF – new window)

  • If you are sectioned or on a community treatment order, the nearest relative must wait 72 hours before discharging you so the responsible clinician can decide whether to challenge it. The responsible clinician must prove that you are likely to act in a way that would be dangerous to yourself or others if you were discharged.

Flowchart: How can my nearest relative discharge me?

Letter from responsible clinician barring discharge

Download a copy of the letter that the responsible clinician would use to bar the discharge if you live in England (PDF – new window) or if you live in Wales (PDF – new window).

Can my nearest relative apply for a Tribunal?

Yes - there are different rules for applying for Mental Health Tribunals depending on which section you are detained on and whether your nearest relative has been displaced. The Tribunal Service website has a useful information sheet for nearest relatives.

This information was published in August 2018. We will revise it in 2020.

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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