Legal Position of a Formal and Informal Patient Admitted to a Mental Health Facility

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Compare and contrast the legal position of a formal and informal hospital patient suffering from mental disorder. About 90% of those admitted to psychiatric facilities in England and Wales are admitted ‘informally’[1]. The grounds for this are found in section 131 (1) of the Mental health Act 1983 – nothing in the act shall be construed as ‘preventing a patient who requires treatment for mental disorder from being admitted to any hospital’ – regardless of whether the ‘correct’ procedure has been followed (i.e. recommendations from ASW). The definition of ‘mental disorder is laid out in section 1 of the act. The legal position of a formally confined patient is much easier to define – as their confinement is by definition – formal –…show more content…
Persons held under section 136 can only be detained for 72 hours, this is to enable them to be examined by a registered medical professional and an ASW. Arrangements can then be made for the patients care or treatment. Mental capacity is another important difference between formal and informal patients with regards to consenting to treatment. Providing the patient is mentally competent, they are in a much stronger position to refuse treatment as an informal patient. Again, however, it has been observed that patients feel coerced into consenting to treatment. Until the MCA[10] came into force this year – there was very little procedural protection afforded to those patients admitted informally and found to be mentally incompetent. Treatment could be forced upon patients in this situation on the basis of the doctors view of the patients best interests[11]. Within the category of informally admitted patients we see different issues arising with regards specific groups. Women, for example, and more specifically white women, represent one and a half times more admissions then men[12] - a considerably higher proportion of patients then their percentage of society. Some may argue that this is due to the enduring misogyny of society, seeing women acquiesce to informal admission, rather then being the active party in the decision that hospitalisation is indeed their best option. Others would view this percentage difference as a result of the fact that women
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