Q: My GP admitted me to hospital following depression after my son’s birth. I am receiving treatment but the doctors aren’t sure what my diagnosis is. I am currently an informal patient on the ward. I believe I am a lot better now but the doctors say they might section me because they’re worried about my health and safety. They think I am going to hurt myself. Can they section me?
A: If you are staying in hospital as an informal patient, it means you are there voluntarily and are free to leave the hospital as and when you choose.
However, if the health professionals looking after you in hospital do not believe you are ready to return home because of concerns about the impact your mental health may have on yourself or others, two doctors can recommend that you be detained under section 2 of the Mental Health Act and the application for admission is then made by an Approved Mental Health Practitioner. This is for assessment of up to 28 days or assessment followed by medical treatment.
If you try to leave the hospital unexpectedly, the doctors can prepare a report to the hospital managers recommending that an application ‘ought to be made’ keeping you in hospital for a period of 72 hours so that you can be assessed. If the hospital managers agree, you will not be allowed to leave the hospital for the 72 hour period until the doctors have decided whether to release you from hospital or section you under the Mental Health Act 1983. In emergencies, certain nurses can detain you for a period of 6 hours.
Should you be sectioned by the doctors there are strict time limits for you to appeal against your detention to a Mental Health Tribunal If you are in any doubt about your rights you should contact a specialist mental health solicitor.