Key COVID-19 legal developments in the health sector: Changes to the Mental Health Act (MHA), and the power to detain and isolate

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Key COVID-19 legal developments in the health sector: Changes to the Mental Health Act (MHA), and the power to detain and isolate

Published 24 marzo 2020

Schedule 7 of the Coronavirus Bill includes changes to the MHA, with significant implications for mental health service providers. In summary the changes streamline the resource and personnel demands of the detention process and specifically:

• Provision is made for applications for detention under s2 and s.3 to be made based on a single medical recommendation.
• The s5(2) holding power can be exercised by any Doctor or Approved Clinician.
• The s5(2) doctors’ holding power will last up to 5 days rather than 72 hours and the s5(4) nurses’ holding power will last up to 12 rather than 6 hours.
• Medication currently requiring a Second Opinion Appointed Doctor (SOAD) where the patient doesn’t, or can’t, consent can be certified by the Responsible Clinician (RC) and the requirement to consult is relaxed.
• The power to detain in a place of safety (s135 and s136) is extended from 24 to 36 hours.
• Various changes are made to court/transfer/remand arrangements for patients involved in criminal proceedings.

While the provisions should ease the burden on providers in these unprecedented times, care will be required to ensure that the provisions are well understood and only relied on where the new statutory criteria are met.

Coronavirus Regulations 2020: the power to detain and isolate

In addition to the changes to mental health legislation updates above, the Coronavirus Regulations provide powers to detain and isolate, where a ‘serious and imminent threat declaration’ is made by the Secretary of State.

An individual can be subjected to screening and assessment, including isolation or detention in a hospital for that purpose, where necessary for the reduction of the risk of infection or contamination. Such a decision must be taken by the Secretary of State or a Registered Public Health Consultant (RPHC) and would only apply where certain conditions are met.

The police are given powers to use reasonable force to enter property and remove an individual to hospital for detention (similar to the s.136 MHA power), or to move them to another hospital, or keep them in hospital for isolation or detention.

Authors

Gill Weatherill

Gill Weatherill

Newcastle

+44 (0)191 404 4045

Sarah Woods

Sarah Woods

Bristol

+44 (0) 117 918 2744

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