The Role and the Relationship Between Professionals and Lay Persons in the Process of Civil Admissions Under the Mental Health Act 1983

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The Role and the Relationship Between Professionals and Lay Persons in the Process of Civil Admissions Under the Mental Health Act 1983

The process of civil admissions under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983 may be viewed by civil libertarians as a violation of the individual’s freedom. The state’s justification for such a ‘violation’ is for the need to protect the individual concerned or to protect others in society. The Mental Health Act 1983 does not explicitly require that an individual would have to be ‘dangerous’ in order for that individual to be admitted to hospital. However, there has developed a ‘dangerousness’ criterion, (whether the individual would be considered to be ‘dangerous’ to himself
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Section 3 allows for ‘treatment’ of a patient who is suffering from one of the specific categories of disorder,[4] which is deemed ‘necessary’ for the patient’s health or safety or for the protection of others.

The process of civil confinement requires an application for admission to the hospital from either an ‘approved social worker’ (ASW) or the ‘nearest relative’ (NR) of the individual who is to be confined. The applications must also be certified by two medical recommendations (one medical recommendation will suffice in an emergency under s.4). Section 26 (1) of the MHA 1983 provides the legal definition of the NR. The relatives of whole blood are usually preferred over relatives of half-blood. In the event that there are two relatives of the relevant class, the elder of the two will usually be chosen as the ‘nearest relative’.

Section 114 (2) of the MHA 1983 requires that ASWs should have ‘appropriate competence in dealing with persons who are suffering from mental disorder.’ An ASW must also undergo twelve weeks of training and must also attend regular refresher courses. This is in contrast with the NR, who does not require any specialist training or knowledge. It is also a divergence from the duties of the Mental Welfare Officer under the Mental Health Act 1959, who also did not require any specialist training to undertake their