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Using the Mental Health Act in primary care

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

To admit someone over 16 who will not agree to an informal (voluntary) admission and who is a danger to themselves or to others, the procedures of the 1983 Act must be used:

There are five sections of the Mental Health Act that may affect GPs in the emergency situation:

  • section two
    • admission for assessment
      • allows admission and assessment of a patient for up to 28 days - treatment can be given for mental disorder without consent
      • application is made by the Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) and two doctors make written recommendations
        • the AMHP is takes the lead role in a Mental Health Act Assessment
          • before the Mental Health Act 2007 this role was taken by a social worker who had undergone specialist training - an Approved Social Worker (ASW)
          • this role has now been extended to other clinicians (e.g. community psychiatric nurses) who have undergone special training
          • the AMHP will act on behalf of the nearest relative by coordinating the assessment and making the formal application
      • one doctor (usually a psychiatrist) should have approval from the Secretary of State under Section 12
      • the other doctor is a doctor who has previous knowledge of the patient (usually the GP)
  • section three
    • admission for treatment
      • for patients who are already known to the service or who have already been assessed under Section 2
      • lasts for up to 6 months - can be renewed thereafter
      • application is made by the same professionals as in a section two
  • section four
    • emergency admission
      • used to admit a patient when only one doctor can be found - this doctor may be the GP
      • the AMHP makes the application and the doctor makes the recommendation
      • detention is limited to 72 hours
      • the purpose of the detention is so that a full Mental Health Act assessment can be undertaken
  • section 135
    • allows for a magistrate to authorise forced entry to a property where it is believed that a person is suffering from a mental disorder
    • once the GP has alerted the services to the situation then he or she should be guided through the procedure by the AMHP
  • section 136
    • a police officer can detain, to a place of safety, a person in a public place who they believe may be suffering from a mental disorder
      • this action allows a full Mental Health Act assessment to take place - to which the GP may be called
      • in most areas, the "place of Safety" is the police station - however some Trusts have introduced dedicated Place of Safety sites within the hospital

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