The Mental Health Act gives certain rights to the nearest relatives of a patient detained in hospital under either Section 2 or Section 3 of the Mental Health Act.
The nearest relative of a patient is the first living person mentioned in the following list:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Son or daughter
- Father or mother
- Brother or sister
- Uncle or aunt
- Nephew or niece
It is ordinarily not possible for a patient to choose who their nearest relative is.
A nearest relative can request that a patient detained under Section 2 of Section MHA is discharged. To do this they need to write a letter to the Hospital Managers stating they do not agree with the detention of their relative. The patient’s doctor then has 72 hours to agree or disagree with this decision. They can only disagree and keep the patient in hospital if they are legally justified in doing so. A nearest relative can only use this power once in every six month period.
A nearest relative can also object to a patient being detained under Section 3 when the application for this is being made. The Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) must consult the nearest relative when they are making the application. If the nearest relative objects, the patient cannot be detained under Section 3 MHA.
If the professionals feel that the nearest relative is unsuitable and are not using their powers in the best interests of the patient, they can apply for the nearest relative to be changed or removed.