for better mental health

Sectioning

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

The UK Government has made emergency changes to the law and introduced new regulations to help manage coronavirus (Covid-19). This includes changes which may affect you if you are sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983.
See our legal pages on coronavirus and sectioning to find out what the new laws might mean for you. You can also read about Mind's response to the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Do any of my family members have the right to get involved?

Yes. A family member called your nearest relative has certain legal rights related to your sectioning. If your nearest relative is concerned about your mental health, they can:

Your nearest relative should be consulted first if the AMHP wants to section you. They should do this before they complete the process and take you to hospital.

If your nearest relative doesn't think you should be sectioned, they have the right to object to you being sectioned, if you are being sectioned under section 3 of the Mental Health Act. However, if you are being sectioned under section 2, the AMHP does not have to listen to them and can still go ahead with the sectioning.

See our information on the nearest relative.

Can people visit me in hospital during coronavirus?

Hospitals may need to limit visitors to the ward during the coronavirus pandemic. But they should not impose blanket bans on all visiting. Any decision to limit visits should be made on an individual basis.

Hospitals might put in place new coronavirus rules, like:

  • having a space for visiting away from the ward
  • limits on the length of visits
  • following social distancing guidelines with visitors.

Where it isn’t possible to have a visit, staff should support you to maintain contact with your family and friends through phone calls or video calls.

Do I have to tell the AMHP who my nearest relative is?

No – you cannot be forced to tell the AMHP anything about yourself if you do not wish to. But the AMHP has a duty under the Mental Health Act to consult your nearest relative, and they will find out your nearest relative's details if they can and it is practical for them to consult them.

What if I don't want my nearest relative to be involved in my care and treatment?

The Mental Health Act has rules for deciding who your nearest relative is, and the AMHP has to follow these rules. You can change who your nearest relative is if you would prefer a different person. To find out how to do this, see our information on the nearest relative.

If you are sectioned and taken to hospital, you have the right to say that you do not want information about your care or treatment to be passed on to your nearest relative. This should be respected in most cases. You can do this even if you have not gone to court to replace your nearest relative.

For example, normally the hospital managers must tell your nearest relative when you are due to be discharged, but if you give instructions that they should not tell your nearest relative this or share other information about you, they should respect your wishes.

Example

Hari has a history of being physically abused as a child. He is still not close to his father and would prefer not to have him involved in his care.

Hari is under section and will be going home in a few days' time. He lives in a flat which he shares with his friends.

He is then told that his father, as his nearest relative, should normally be informed when Hari is going to be discharged from hospital because it is the duty of the hospital managers to do this.

Hari says that he absolutely does not want his father to be told this or any other information about him. The hospital has to respect his wishes.

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.

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