For our first blog, we would like to introduce our brand-new Mental Health Department. The mental health team is made up of solicitor, Natalie Dodds, and trainee solicitor, Natalie Holloway. We are members of the Law Society’s Mental Health Accreditation Scheme and between us have 10 years’ experience working in mental health law.

When a person is suffering from a mental illness and need to be in hospital to receive treatment, they can either be admitted informally or detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.
All patients detained under the Mental Health Act have the right to a solicitor to advise them on their own rights as a patient and the powers of the Hospital. We travel to hospitals all over the country to see patients.

Our clients range from young, vulnerable service users to elderly patients. If the patient wants to be discharged from hospital, or transferred to another hospital, or want some leave from the hospital, we can apply for a Tribunal hearing.

The Tribunal have the power to discharge patients or make recommendations. A Tribunal hearing is like a court hearing but it is heard at the hospital. The Tribunal Panel is made up of 3 members who have specialist expertise, these are a Judge, a Psychiatrist and a Specialist Lay Member. Together they hear evidence and make decisions.

We can also advise patients on their right to apply for Hospital Managers Meetings and attend other meetings such as Care Programme Approach Meetings and Section 117 meetings.

When people have been discharged from hospital they may still be subject to the Mental Health Act 1983 under a Community Treatment Order or entitled to Section 117 aftercare. We are able to meet with community patients to provide and assistance.

For patients, being in hospital can be very daunting, particularly if it is their first admission, and we are very happy to be in a position to advise clients on their rights and help them understand the purpose of detention in hospital.

In most cases, our costs are covered by the Legal Aid Agency and this is often non-means tested. This means that we can advise and represent patients for free.

Not only are we able to advise the patient but we can also advise Nearest Relatives. In some circumstances, Nearest Relatives have the power to request that their relative is discharged from hospital and need advice on how to go about this. We are always happy to help and advise relatives if they are concerned about a family member who is in hospital.

We hope that this gives a brief explanation of what our new Mental Health Department does and we look forward to explaining things in more detail in future blogs.