Mental Health Act & Personal Rights

Informal patients

An informal patient (sometimes called a voluntary patient) is a person who has consented to admission to hospital to receive treatment for their mental health problem.

An informal patient should be given information by the ward staff about their legal rights for example in relation to treatment, the right to leave the ward and how to make a complaint. This information should be provided in an language and a format that they understand.

Treatment

An informal patient has the right to get treatment for their mental health problem. They also have the right to get treatment for physical health problems, just as they would in the community.

An informal patient has the right to refuse treatment, including prescribed medication. They must be given enough information about any proposed treatment to allow them to make an informed decision about whether to accept it.

Spending time away from the hospital

An informal patient has the right to leave the ward at any time, and does not need permission from the staff.

The care team will expect a patient to take part in their treatment plan, which will include therapeutic activities and talking to staff. An informal patient may negotiate periods of time away from the hospital as part of their treatment plan.

Most wards are locked; although an informal patient does not need permission to leave the hospital, they will have to let staff know that they wish to leave. Staff should ask about a patient’s plans e.g. where they are going, what are they going to do while away, what time are they going to return.

Leaving hospital

An informal patient has the right to leave hospital if they don’t want to stay. If the care team are concerned that this could put the patient, or other people at risk they may consider detention under the Mental Health Act 1983.

The threat of detention under the MHA must not be used to make an informal patient agree to take treatment or stay on the ward if they don’t want to.

Detained patients

A detained patient (often called a sectioned patient) is a patient who is being kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. If a patient is detained they can be kept in hospital, prevented from leaving the ward and given treatment for their mental health problems, possibly without their consent.

There are different types of sections, each has different rules about how long a person can be kept in hospital and about treatment. The patient, and in most cases their nearest relative, must be given detailed information about their legal rights under the Mental Health Act. This information must be provided in a format and language which they understand.

If a patient has been detained they normally have the right to get help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA).

Most detained patients have the right to appeal to the Hospital Managers and the Mental Health Tribunal to challenge their detention.

Community Treatment Orders

Some patients who have been detained for treatment under the Mental Health Act are discharged from hospital on a Community Treatment Order (CTO). This means that they continue to receive treatment for their mental health problem in the community rather than in hospital. The Responsible Clinician has the power to recall the patient to hospital if they are in urgent need of treatment.

A CTO lasts for 6 months, and can be renewed for a further 6 months, and then annually.

The patient and their nearest relative, must be given detailed information about their legal rights under the Mental Health Act. This information must be provided in a format and language which they understand.

A patient on a CTO has the right to get help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA).

CTO patients have the right to appeal to the Hospital Managers and the Mental Health Tribunal to challenge being on a CTO.


Real Life Experience

If you'd like to share your experience, please email tewv.vrc@nhs.net to find out more.