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11 Facts on detentions under the Mental Health Act

When people refuse treatment, they may, in some extenuating circumstances, be detained, or ‘sectioned,’ under the Mental Health Act. This has several important legal implications and, as such, has been widely discussed and elaborated upon in recent years. We’ve made a list of some of the most interesting and relevant facts and findings about detentions under the Mental Health Act.

1. There are three types of civil detentions

These are Emergency Detention, Short- term Detention, and a Compulsory Treatment Order (CTO). Emergency Detention allows a person to be held in hospital for up to 72 hours, whereas a Short-term Detention means that a person can be detained for 28 days. A CTO, however, can take place in a hospital or in the community and lasts for a treatment period of 6 months, which can be renewed when it terminates.

2. Right to Appeal

If a person is detained against their will, they have a right to an appeal and get help from an independent advocate.

3. Number of detainees has increased by 47%

The number of people detained under the Mental Health Act in England increased by 47% between 2005 and 2015. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that it is unsure what the exact reasons for this rise are. A report by the Care Quality Commission proposed that better care for return detainees and early intervention programmes may help to improve the situation.

4. Removal to a Place of Safety

Anyone suffering from a mental disorder who needs care and treatment can be taken to a place of safety by the police. A 24-hour assessment period will follow where the person’s treatment needs are assessed. Police cells are being used less and less frequently as ‘places of safety,’ which is partly because hospitals are used more often for this purpose. Note that this is a different process from an Emergency Detention.

5. Detention rates usually decline with age

Recent detention rates in the UK are highest for the 18-34 age bracket (more than a third higher than those aged 50-64), which suggests that detention rates usually decline with age. Interestingly, however, there is also a slight increase in the amount of detentions in the 65+ age group.

6. Doctors can stop detainees from receiving visitors

However, if they do so, doctors need to prove that this is necessary and that it has serious safety or security implications. These should be explained to the detainee. If a doctor prohibits a detainee from receiving visitors when it’s not necessary, it could be breach of their rights and might require a solicitor.

7. Post-Natal Depression Care

Health Boards must ensure that there are mother and baby units available to accommodate mothers admitted to hospital for treatment of post-natal depression. This will allow her to take care of her child while she is in hospital. This was not always guaranteed under the previous Health Act.

8. Detentions must be recommended by the relevant authorities

All detentions must pass the proper legal and psychiatric requirements needed in order for a person to be detained. Emergency Detentions must be recommended by a doctor and might even require approval from a mental health officer, whereas Short-term Detentions are almost always recommended by a psychiatrist and a mental health officer. CTO’s, however, must be approved by a special Mental Health Tribunal and must meet several important criteria.

9. Minorities most likely to be detained under Mental Health Act

In 2016/17, people in the white ethnic group were the least likely to be detained (compared to the other broad ethnic groups). The rates for detention (not the total amount) for the ‘Black or Black British’ group were over four times as high as those in the White ethnic group.

10. Known rates of CTO use for males is almost twice the rate for females

11. Detainees can receive help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)

Hospital staff inform you of your right to receive help from an IMHA as soon as you are detained. They can help detainees understand their rights, voice their concerns, and clarify their treatment process. An IMHA must be an independent of the hospital staff. However, you may not receive help from an IMHA if you are under an Emergency Detention, under holding powers, or in a place of safety under police powers.

Need expert advice?

We provide independent psychiatric reports for clients subject to detention under the Mental Health Act, including both Short-Term Detentions and Compulsory Treatment Orders (CTO). We address whether the criteria for detention are met, that guiding principles are being adhered to and that the least restrictive options have been given due consideration.