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Explains the rights that you have if you are sectioned and detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.
If you are sectioned, this means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are detained under.
What will happen to you once you are sectioned depends on which section you are detained under, your specific mental health problem and need for care and treatment, and your personal circumstances.
You may be sectioned if you or someone has raised concerns about your mental health.
You should only be sectioned if:
Before you can be lawfully sectioned, you will need to be assessed by health professionals, to make sure that it is necessary.
Kenneth has schizophrenia and has had repeated hospital admissions since he was in his 20s.
He has recently been acting irrationally and out of character; he seems unable to look after himself. It turns out he has not taken his mental health medication for several months.
He seems to have lost a lot of weight, but when food is offered to him he gets irritated saying “I told you, I‘m not hungry”, and just pushes it away. He has become forgetful and doesn’t seem aware of everyday dangers any more, and a few times has wandered into the path of traffic on a busy road.
His wife thinks that he may need medical treatment urgently otherwise his health and safety will be at risk.
You can be detained under section 2 if:
Up to 28 days.The section can’t normally be extended or renewed, but you may be assessed before the end of the 28 days to see if sectioning under section 3 is needed.
You can be detained under section 3 if:
You cannot be sectioned under this section unless the doctors also agree that appropriate treatment is available for you.
Up to 6 months.
The section can be renewed or extended by your responsible clinician:
Your responsible clinician can also discharge you from your section before it comes to an end. If this happens, you are free to go home.
If your mental health gets worse again in the future, you could be sectioned and taken to hospital again on a new section.
You need to be detained under section 4 if:
You can be sectioned by one doctor only (together with the approved mental health professional) and you can be taken to hospital in an emergency and assessed there.
Your rights are different compared to your rights under other sections. For example, you cannot be treated without your consent.
Up to 72 hours.
Section 5(2) applies to you if you are a voluntary patient or inpatient (including inpatients being treated for a physical problem).
A doctor or other approved clinician in charge of your treatment needs to report to the hospital managers that an application to keep you in hospital (a detention section) ‘ought to be made’.
You can be kept under this section for up to 72 hours.
Section 5(4) applies if you are a voluntary patient receiving treatment for a mental disorder. A nurse specially qualified and trained to work with mental health problems or learning disabilities can detain you if they think that your mental health problem is so serious that:
You can be kept under section 5(4) for up to 6 hours, or until a doctor or clinician with authority to detain you arrives, whichever is earlier.
This section applies if you are already detained under the Mental Health Act. This section gives the responsible clinician power to grant you leave for a specified period of time from the ward and the hospital.
You are likely to be asked to keep to certain conditions, such as returning on a certain day or at a certain time, or staying at a particular place or in the care of a particular person.
Section 35 applies if you are a person accused of a crime in criminal proceedings. The Crown Court or Magistrates’ Court can remand you to hospital if one doctor has evidence that:
You can be kept under this section for up to 28 days, renewable for further periods of 28 days, to a maximum of 12 weeks in total.
Under this section, you can be sent to hospital for treatment.
The Crown Court can make a hospital order before or after you have been convicted of a crime. The Magistrates’ Court can only make a hospital order when you have been convicted of an offence that could be punished with a prison sentence.
The court makes a hospital order on evidence from two doctors that:
You can be kept under this section for up to 6 months, and then can be renewed for a further 6 months, and then for 1 year at a time.
If the Crown Court has made a hospital order under section 37, it can also impose a ‘restriction order’. This means that you can only be discharged, transferred or given section 17 leave with permission from the Ministry of Justice.
The Court will make a restriction order if it thinks it is necessary to protect the public from serious harm.
There is no fixed time limit for how long you can be kept under this section. It changes the time limit of section 37.
Section 47 applies if the Ministry of Justice orders you to be transferred from prison to hospital for treatment of your mental health problems.
You can be kept under this section for up to 6 months, renewable for a second 6 months, and then 1 year at a time.
If the Ministry of Justice has ordered you to be transferred from prison to hospital under section 47, at the same time it can also impose a ‘restriction direction’ on you under section 49. This means that you can only be discharged, transferred and given leave from hospital with permission from the Secretary of State for Justice.
You can be kept in hospital until the end of the section 47 or the date when you should be released from prison.
Under section 117, health authorities and local social services have a legal duty to provide free aftercare for people who have been discharged under Mental Health Act sections 3, 37, 45A, 47 or 48. The duty to provide aftercare also applies if you are given secton 17 leave or are under a community treatment order.
Aftercare services in the aftercare plan should be provided free of charge. The services will meet a need relating to your mental health problem and prevent you from returning to hospital.
You can be placed under this section if there is reasonable cause to suspect that you have a mental disorder and you are:
A magistrate can issue a warrant authorising a police officer (with a doctor and an approved mental health professional) to enter any premises where you are believed to be and take you to (or keep you at) a place of safety.
(See our legal pages on the police and mental health for more information.)
You can be kept in hospital for up to 24 hours (this can be extended up to 36 hours in some circumstances).
If it appears to a police officer that you have a mental disorder and are “in need of immediate care or control”, they can take you to (or keep you at) a place of safety. You will be kept in the place of safety you were taken to so that you can be examined by a doctor and interviewed by an approved mental health professional, and any necessary arrangements can be made for your treatment or care.
(See our legal pages on the police and mental health for more information.)
You can be kept under this section for up to 24 hours (this can be extended up to 36 hours in some circumstances).
No, you can agree to go into hospital in the normal way. You can be referred by your GP or your psychiatrist. You will then be a voluntary patient (also known as an 'informal patient') and have the same rights as patients getting treatment for other health problems. (See our pages on voluntary patients for more information.)
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.See our full list of legal terms.
Being 'sectioned' means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act. There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are detained under.
See our pages on sectioning for more information.See our full list of legal terms.
When the Mental Health Act talks about someone with mental health problems and whether or not they should be sectioned, it often uses the term 'mental disorder'. The Act says that this can include “any disorder or disability of mind”.
Mental disorder can include:
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.See our full list of legal terms.
Certain decisions, such as applying for someone who is sectioned to go onto a community treatment order (CTO), can only be taken by the responsible clinician.
All responsible clinicians must be approved clinicians. They do not have to be a doctor, but in practice many of them are.See our full list of legal terms.
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.See our full list of legal terms.
This means that you will go to prison until you go to court to have your case considered. Sometimes you can be remanded to hospital instead of prison.See our full list of legal terms.
This means medical treatment for your mental health problem that is:
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.See our full list of legal terms.
This means that you are vulnerable because of your mental health problem, and you need a level of care or control that you are not receiving at the time of the warrant to keep you safe and healthy.See our full list of legal terms.
AMHPs are mental health professionals who have been approved by a local social services authority to carry out duties under the Mental Health Act. They are responsible for coordinating your assessment and admission to hospital if you are sectioned.
They may be:
This is a locally agreed place where the police may take you to be assessed. It's usually a hospital but can be your home. A police station should only be used in an emergency.See our full list of legal terms.
Voluntary patients, also known as 'informal patients', are people who are staying in a psychiatric hospital but are not detained under the Mental Health Act. If you are a voluntary patient, you should be able to come and go from the hospital within reason and discharge yourself if you decide to go home.
See our pages on voluntary patients for more information.See our full list of legal terms.
This information was published in September 2017. We will revise it in 2019.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.