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Homepage :: Legal issues :: Assessment under the Mental Health Act England and Wales 1983 :: Use of the Mental Health Act

Use of the Mental Health Act

The Mental Health Act 1983 makes statutory provision for the compulsory assessment, care and treatment in hospital of patients with a mental disorder as defined in section 1 of the Act.   The patient may be in the community or in hospital at the time of assessment.

Mental disorder comprises mental illness, mental impairment, severe mental impairment and psychopathic disorder. In the Act, mental illness is not defined but is a matter for clinical judgement.

The most common civil sections of the Act under which patients are compulsorily admitted to a hospital are:

  • section 2 : admission to hospital for up to 28 days for assessment,
  • section 3 : admission to hospital for up to 6 months for treatment and
  • section 4 : admission on an emergency basis for up to 72 hours.


Criteria for detention under the Mental Health Act 1983

Compulsory admission for assessment and / or treatment can only occur when:

  • the patient is suffering from mental disorder within the meaning of section 1 of the Act; and if so,
  • the mental disorder is sufficiently serious to need further assessment and/or medical treatment in hospital; and
  • the patient needs to be compulsorily admitted under the Act in the interests of his or her own health or safety, and/or for the protection of other people.

Last edited: 12/1/2004


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