Explains the rights that you have if you are sectioned and detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.
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.
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.
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. Or you could potentially be assessed at home. You should not be kept for assessment for longer than 24 hours, but you may then be sectioned and kept in hospital for longer.
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.
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.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
Approved mental health professional (AMHP)
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:
- social workers
- occupational therapists
Place of safety
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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Not kept under proper control
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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Independent mental health advocate (IMHA)
- You have a right to an IMHA if you are:
detained in hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act, but not if you are under sections 4, 5, 135 and 136
- under Mental Health Act guardianship, conditional discharge and community treatment orders (CTOs)
- discussing having certain treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
In Wales, voluntary patients can also have an IMHA.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This information was published in July 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.