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The New Mental Health Act: An Easy Read Guide

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12 Emergency and short-term powers

Cartoon illustration to support information

What does the law say about emergency powers?

Who can help in an emergency?

Who has emergency powers?

  • Police
  • Local authority
  • Nurse

What is an emergency detention certificate?

What is a short-term detention certificate?

How do I appeal?

What does the law say?

Sometimes when you become ill you need care and treatment very quickly. Emergency and short-term powers make sure you get the help you need. The new law says when:

  • police can take you to a safe place for care and treatment
  • your local authority can find out if you need care and treatment
  • your nurse can keep you in hospital
  • you can be given a emergency detention certificate. This means you can be kept in hospital for Time Logo 3 days and given treatment if you need it very quickly
  • you can be given a short-term detention certificate. This means you can be kept in hospital and have treatment for Time Logo 28 days.

You should remember that the police may use these special powers to help you when you are ill. This does not mean that you have done anything wrong. They are using the powers to help you.

There are other powers in the new law which are used if someone is involved with the police or courts because they have done something wrong.

Who can help in an emergency?

If you or someone you know is ill and needs care and treatment urgently you may ask:

  • a doctor
  • a community psychiatric nurse
  • a community learning disability nurse
  • a social worker.

You might have other support in your area. Your social work service should tell you who can help.

If you think someone is in danger or a danger to others you should phone 999Telephone Logo.

How do the police use these emergency powers?

If you are in a public place and a police officer thinks:

  • you have a mental disorder
  • you need care and treatment immediately.

The police officer can take you to a safe place. A safe place could be a hospital or a care home. Sometimes it may be the police station.

Remember that the police will take you to a safe place to help you. It does not mean you have done anything wrong.

The police must tell all of these people:

  • your local authority ( Social Work Department)
  • your family or carer
  • the Mental Welfare Commission. This is the organisation who looks after those who need help because of a mental disorder. They make sure all treatment follows the law.

The police get a doctor to examine you. The doctor may decide:

  • you don't need any medical treatment
  • you need treatment and they discuss this with you
  • you need an emergency detention certificate
  • you need a short-term detention certificate.

Morag is in the shopping centre. Some people are worried that she is ill and needs help. They call the police who take Morag to the local hospital. They get a doctor to examine her. The doctor decides she needs to stay in hospital for treatment. Morag agrees to have treatment.

How would the local authority use these powers?

Your local authority must find out what you need if you have a mental disorder. If they think:

  • you are unable to look after yourself
  • you are not safe
  • your property is not safe
  • someone else is not safe.

Your mental health officer can ask the court for help to find out about your needs. He/she can ask the court for permission.

  • to come into your home
  • to ask a doctor to examine you
  • to take you to a "place of safety".

The doctor should take time to discuss your treatment with you. You have the right to ask questions about your treatment.

Your doctor may decide:

  • you don't need any medical treatment
  • you need treatment and you agree this together
  • you need an emergency detention certificate
  • you need a short-term detention certificate.

Mental health officer: a specially trained social worker who helps people who have a mental disorder. He/she should tell you about your rights and make sure you get the care you need.

How would a nurse use these powers?

If you are in hospital for treatment and you decide to leave the nurse may not agree. He/she can keep you in hospital for up to 2 hours so that a doctor can see you.

If your nurse believes:

  • you may not be safe
  • someone else may not be safe
  • you need to be examined by a doctor.

Morag is in hospital having voluntary treatment. She wants to leave hospital but the nurse thinks she might not be safe if she left. The nurse uses the special powers to keep Morag in hospital for Time Logo 2 hours. She asks the doctor to examine Morag.

Cartoon illustration to support information

If the nurse uses this power he/she must:

  • record it in writing
  • tell the hospital managers
  • tell the Mental Welfare Commission.

The doctor may decide:

  • you don't need any medical treatment
  • you need treatment. They will discuss it with you
  • you need an emergency detention certificate
  • you need a short-term detention certificate.

The doctor examines Morag and decides she needs more time to decide what is best. She gives her an emergency detention certificate. In the next Time Logo 3 days she talks to Morag and her carer about her care and treatment.

What is an emergency detention certificate?

The doctor uses this if he/she believes:

  • you have a mental disorder
  • you are not able to decide about your treatment
  • you need to stay in hospital
  • you or someone else may not be safe if you are not in hospital.

Flow Chart
Flow Chart

After Time Logo 3 days the doctor decides Morag needs treatment. Morag does not agree to this. The doctor gives Morag a short-term detention certificate. Morag has to stay in hospital for treatment for Time Logo 28 days.

Compulsory treatment order: means you have treatment even if you do not want it.

Short-term detention certificate: this means you can be kept in hospital and given compulsory treatment for up to Time Logo 28 days.

What is a short-term detention certificate?

The doctor uses this if he/she believes:

  • you have a mental disorder
  • you cannot decide about your own treatment
  • you should be kept in hospital for treatment
  • you or someone else is not safe because of your illness.

Flow Chart

How long will this last?

This can be for Time Logo 28 days. The doctor should keep checking how you are.

If you doctor thinks you do not need to be held in hospital:

  • he/she stops the short-term detention certificate
  • you are free to leave the hospital,

or

  • you may stay as a voluntary patient, if you have agreed to do so.

What happens after 28 days?

If your doctor thinks you need more treatment after the Time Logo 28 days he/she may ask for a compulsory treatment order. This means you have treatment even if you do not want it. You may need to stay in hospital Time Logo 3-5 more days if your doctors are preparing a compulsory treatment order.

Cartoon illustration to support information

How do I appeal?

You or your named person can ask the Mental Health Tribunal to stop the certificate. The Tribunal is the organisation that decides about the compulsory treatment of people with mental disorder.You can ask a solicitor for advice and to speak for you at the Tribunal. You may be able to get legal aid to pay the solicitor. The solicitor can help you to get this.