No. 1: The Nearest Relative’s Right to Ask Social Services to carry out an Assessment under the Mental Health Act
Many relatives find themselves in a position of being very worried about a close relative whose mental health is deteriorating, and then being unable to get help from mental health services. This is often the case when the person in crisis is too frightened to seek help themselves or are so unwell that they cannot cooperate with the helping process.
People do not have to be a risk to others in order to be assessed under the Mental Health Act (MHA). It is sufficient for their own health or safety to be at such risk as possibly to need assessment and treatment in hospital. The Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) and the two doctors involved in the assessment have the duty to try and find an alternative to compulsory admission (sectioning).
The “Nearest Relative” is not the same as “Next of Kin”. Section 26 of the MHA defines who is the Nearest Relative. Usually it is the patient’s husband, wife, civil partner, or cohabitee. If not married it will usually be a grown up child or a parent.
If you think you are the Nearest Relative and want to request an assessment under MHA for your relative, phone Social Services, tell them that as Nearest Relative you are requesting an assessment UNDER THE MENTAL HEALTH ACT. The last phrase is important because there are many different kinds of assessment. Social Services will then take details from you and allocate your case to an AMHP who then has to investigate your request and take it into consideration. If the AMHP agrees with you that an assessment is needed, the AMHP will have a duty to arrange it.
A request for a MHA assessment can be made at any time. Out of hours there is an Emergency Duty Team which can respond to such requests if urgent.
The numbers to ring are as follows:
Norfolk Social Services 0344 800 8020
Suffolk Social Services 0808 800 4005
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