Mental Health Act - emergency and short-term powers: guide

A guide for service users and their carers to the Mental Health Act emergency and short-term powers (2008 version).

5 The local authority's duty to inquire where someone might be at risk

The local authority has a duty to inquire into your circumstances where you are an adult (someone aged 16 or over), you appear to have a mental disorder, you are living in the community, and

  • You may be experiencing ill-treatment or neglect,
  • Your property may be at risk of loss or damage,
  • You may be living alone or without support, and may be unable to look after yourself, or
  • The safety of another person might be at risk.

In order to carry out this duty, the local authority might wish to get access to premises, e.g. your home. If a mental health officer ( MHO) believes that he/she will be unable to get access, then he/she can apply to the court for a warrant to authorise the access. An MHO is a specially trained social worker who has particular duties under the Act.

An MHO can also seek a warrant from the court which would authorise
a doctor to examine you. If they believe it is necessary, they can also
seek a warrant which would enable you to be taken to a 'place of safety' to be examined.

If you are examined by a doctor, he/she might decide that you don't need any medical treatment, or might agree arrangements about your treatment with you. In some cases, he/she might decide to grant an emergency detention certificate ( see here) or a short-term detention certificate ( see here).

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