The Mental Health Tribunal. A blog by Peter Furness, Solicitor


To whom does this apply?

Patients who are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act or subject to a Community Treatment Order (CTO) are entitled from time to time to apply to The Mental Health Tribunal to be discharged. This applies whether or not the patient is being assessed for a short period of time in hospital or indeed is being detained for treatment for a longer period of time. Patients who are on a CTO are liable to be recalled to hospital, if for example there is non-compliance with medication. In all of these cases, patients have the right to be discharged from the Section even if they wish to voluntarily remain in hospital, or indeed voluntarily take medication.

When are patients allowed to apply to The Mental Health Tribunal?

This all depends on the type of Section. Detention for assessment can only last 28 days and therefore any application to the Tribunal has to be made within that time limit. Detention in a hospital for treatment generally means that within the first six months of the detention the patient has the right to apply to a Mental Health Tribunal and thereafter once in the next six months, followed by once every twelve months. If the patient is subject to a CTO they basically have the same rights to apply to a Tribunal, as those detained in hospital for treatment.

What is The Mental Health Tribunal?

The Tribunal is not connected to the hospital and consists of a Judge, an independent Tribunal doctor and a specialist member who often has a social worker or mental health background. The Tribunal is a very informal setting and every patient who appears before the Tribunal is entitled to legal representation covered by Legal Aid regardless of financial circumstances.

During the Tribunal, evidence is heard from the hospital psychiatrist, the hospital nursing staff and the patient’s social worker and of course the patient is allowed to give evidence himself/herself. The patient is allowed to ask questions of the various experts either by himself/herself or through his/her legal representative. Members of the Tribunal may also ask questions. At the end of all of the evidence being heard, the Tribunal will decide in general terms, whether the Section should remain in place, or whether the patient should be discharged.

How can we help you?

Only specialist accredited lawyers are entitled to appear on behalf of patients at a tribunal. This firm has a mental health department headed by Peter Furness who is an accredited mental health specialist and as such, we are able to assist in Tribunal applications and representations at the Tribunal itself. For more information please contact our dedicated team on 01325 281111.

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