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).

7 Emergency detention certificate

(a) When might a doctor grant an emergency detention certificate?

A doctor who has examined you may grant an emergency detention certificate where he/she believes:

  • It is likely that you have a mental disorder; and
  • It is likely that your ability to make decisions about medical treatment is significantly impaired as a result of your mental disorder; and
  • It is necessary as a matter of urgency to detain you in hospital, to help decide what medical treatment you need; and
  • That if you were not detained in hospital, there would be a significant risk to you, or to other people; and
  • That making arrangements with a view to granting a short-term detention certificate would involve undesirable delay.

Before granting the certificate, the doctor must consult a mental health officer and get his/her agreement, unless it is not possible for this consultation to take place.

(b) What happens after an emergency detention certificate is granted?

If you are not in hospital when the certificate is granted, then arrangements will be made to transfer you to hospital. The Act says that you have to be transferred to hospital within 72 hours (3 days) of the certificate being granted. Transfers to hospital should take place as soon as possible within that period and should be carried out sensitively. Once you have been admitted to hospital, you can be kept there under the emergency detention certificate for a further 72 hours (3 days) from the time you are admitted.

If you are already in hospital when the certificate is granted, you can be kept there under the certificate for up to 72 hours (3 days).

(c) What will happen to me when I'm in hospital under an emergency detention certificate?

The purpose of an emergency detention certificate is to allow you to be assessed in hospital with a view to deciding if you need medical treatment for your mental disorder. During that time, you should not be given treatment without your consent unless you are being treated under a different law (the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000), or you need treatment urgently, e.g. to save your life, or prevent a serious deterioration in your condition.

The hospital managers are under a duty to ensure that a doctor with experience in diagnosing and treating mental disorder (a psychiatrist) examines you as soon as possible. If that doctor believes that it is not necessary for you to be detained in hospital under the Act, then he/she will revoke the emergency detention certificate. You will then be free to leave the hospital, or to stay as a voluntary patient, if you have agreed to do so. If he/she believes that you do need to be detained in hospital, then they may grant a short-term detention certificate.

The hospital managers also have a duty to provide you with information about your detention in hospital and your rights. They should tell you about independent advocacy services and help you to access the support of an independent advocate, if you wish to do so.

(d) Can I appeal to the Tribunal against an emergency detention certificate?

There is no right of appeal to the Tribunal against an emergency detention certificate. This is because it would not be practical to organise an appeal in such a short time.

Back to top