The vast majority of patients detained in Hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 have the right to appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal if they do not think that they should be on a section. The Tribunal is an independent body who will consider the evidence and must discharge the patient if they do not find that the legal criteria to keep them on a section are met.
There are rules about when and how often an application to the Tribunal can be made depending on which section of the Mental Health Act you are subject to.
Who is on a Mental Health Tribunal panel?
The Tribunal panel consists of three members:
- The Judge – who is normally a qualified Solicitor or Barrister who specialises in mental health law or a full-time Judge.
- The Tribunal Doctor – an experienced, and independent Psychiatrist who can meet with you before the Hearing to discuss your case. The Tribunal Doctor will then inform everyone else at the hearing about your discussion with him/her.
- The Specialist Lay Member – Not a Lawyer or Doctor, but normally a social worker with experience in mental health law.
Who will attend a Mental Health Hearing?
The Hearing will take place in the hospital and will be attended by:
- The patient
- The patient’s doctor, nurse, and social worker/CPN
- The patient’s Solicitor
- The Patient’s Independent Mental Health Advocate (‘IMHA’)(if they have one) and/or a relative/friend if they wish.
What happens during a Mental Health Tribunal?
The patient can give evidence at the hearing if they want to. They can choose whether to do this at the beginning or the end of the hearing and should be helped to do so by their solicitor. The patient’s responsible clinician (usually a psychiatrist), nurse and social worker/CPN will also give evidence. All three will have provided written reports which the patient and their solicitor will have seen before the hearing. The solicitor, or the patient, will have the chance to ask questions of the clinical team as will the tribunal panel.
At the end of the hearing, the panel will make a decision on whether the patient should be discharged from their section or not. If you are discharged from your section you may choose to stay in a hospital voluntarily. The Tribunal can also make recommendations about whether the patient should be transferred to a different hospital, given leave or given treatment in the community.