1. Overview

You can apply to the mental health tribunal if you disagree with a decision to ‘section’ or detain someone in a psychiatric hospital.

The tribunal can release (‘discharge’) the patient or recommend they are:

  • transferred to a local hospital
  • considered for treatment in the community

The patient is sometimes allowed some time out of the hospital, to see if they’re ready for life in the community.

The tribunal deals with cases in England and Wales. Scotland has its own tribunal.

Other applications

You can also apply to the tribunal if you disagree with:

  • a community treatment order
  • the conditions placed on a discharge from the hospital

When you can apply

You can apply at different times, depending on how the patient was detained.

The rules are complicated, but generally the time-limits are:

Type of detention Period of detention When you can appeal
Admitted for assessment Up to 28 days Within first 14 days
Admitted for treatment Up to 6 months, but can be renewed Once every 6 months
Ordered by court Up to 6 months, but can be renewed After 6 months, then once every 6 months

The tribunal will automatically look at the cases of patients that have not been reviewed for some time. These are called ‘referrals’.

Help and advice

Patients are entitled to legal aid and can get free legal representation.

If you’re a relative of the patient, you can represent yourself or get legal help.

You can find a mental health solicitor on the Law Society website.

You can also get advice from:

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