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High Court to consider AMHPs’ ‘legal responsibility for suitability of hospitals’ used in Mental Health Act detentions

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The High Court is to consider whether the statutory duties placed on Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) under the Mental Health Act extend to a responsibility for the suitability of hospitals that people they detain are placed in.


The scope of AMHP duties formed a key part of the case of DD v Durham Council at the Court of Appeal recently. The case has been remitted to the High Court.

This case has a lot of context and history to it so definitely read the full summary here but I’ll try and focus in on what I see as the key implications for the AMHP role.


A core part of the case is a claim by DD that he was detained in a treatment unit “which practised a regime which was not suitable” given his mental condition. DD makes several allegations about care at the unit, including that he “was kept in permanent seclusion in a bare room” that had no toilet.


DD’s lawyers claimed that AMHPs who assessed DD and applied for him to be detained at the unit: “had the legal responsibility not only for assessing whether the patient should be detained, but also for the suitability of the hospital at which the patient was to be detained and the regime under which he would be helped.”


In a statement one of the AMHPs who had assessed DD set out her view that “it was not the function of an AMHP to decide on the particular hospital to which a person should be sent for assessment under section 2 [of the MHA]; that was the function of the medical practitioner or the NHS Trust”


The county council also contends that “no such duty rested upon the AMHP”. Section 13 (2) of the Mental Health Act did no more than require satisfaction as to the need for detention in a hospital. 


The council argued that it did not extend to any responsibility for the selection of the hospital. The council also submitted that the Mental Health Act Code of Practice “made clear that the responsibility for the suitability of a hospital was not that of the AMHP”.


The Court of Appeal indicated that “it would be desirable” for it to determine the question of AMHP responsibilities in this regard. But it said it felt unable to do so because there were no detailed pleadings, they would need to ensure that any decision fitted within the overall provisions of the Mental Health Act and there “was no prospect” of agreement on the facts between the two parties.


So the case has been remitted to the High Court and it’s one to keep an eye on. As the Court of Appeal summary states, this issue “is plainly of considerable importance to all AMHPs, local authorities and others in this field that the responsibility be clarified as soon as possible.”


is Community Care’s community editor

About Andy McNicoll

Andy is community editor at Community Care, with a focus on reporting on mental health. He has previously worked for titles focusing on the NHS and substance misuse sectors. You can contact him at andy.mcnicoll@rbi.co.uk

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