Explains the rights that you have if you are sectioned and detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. Applies to England and Wales.

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Can I avoid being sectioned?

Can I get legal advice before I am sectioned?

You have the right to consult a solicitor or legal adviser about your rights before you are sectioned, but:

  • the health professionals do not have to wait for this to happen before they decide whether to section you or not
  • a solicitor or legal adviser will not be able to stop you from being sectioned. They may be able to advise you on how to apply to be discharged from your section, but you can only do this after you have been sectioned and taken to hospital.

An independent mental health advocate (IMHA) may be available to help you express your views and support you, if that is what you want.

  • You can ask the approved mental health professional (AMHP) to arrange this. But they will not be able to stop you from being sectioned.
  • Also, in an urgent situation, the health professionals do not have to wait for the advocate to arrive before they assess you.

Can I lock my door to avoid being sectioned?

If you are at home and lock your door, normally it would be against the law for anyone to enter without your agreement or break in. But the health professionals who want to assess you can use the law to enter your home.

The Mental Health Act allows the AMHP to get a warrant from a magistrate so that the police can get in, and even break in if necessary. They will come with the AMHP and a medical practitioner.

They can only enter your home if they have reason to think that:

  • you are living on your own and not caring for yourself, or
  • you are being cared for by someone else, but not being kept under proper control.

You can then be taken to a hospital or other place of safety to be assessed. You should not be kept for assessment for longer than 72 hours, but you may then be sectioned and kept in hospital for longer.

Can I refuse to go to hospital?

The Mental Health Act 1983 gives the AMHP and the other health professionals the right to take you to hospital. If you refuse to go with them, they have the right to use reasonable force to take you to hospital or they may call the police for assistance.

As long as the health professionals follow the right steps as set out in the Mental Health Act, and they fill in the section papers correctly, your sectioning will be lawful and you will have to go to hospital to be assessed and possibly treated.

Practical things you can do

If you want to refuse to go to hospital, here are some practical things you can do:

  • Talk to the professionals and make sure they know that you are coping, or can cope, in the community and without going to hospital.
  • Ask them why they are assessing you and what concerns they have about you.
  • Make sure they know your views, how you manage your situation, and any support network you have, such as friends or family.


This information was published in September 2017. We will revise it in 2019.

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