What is a Section 4 of the Mental Health Act?


What is a Section 4 of the Mental Health Act?



Section 4 of the Mental Health Act is an emergency application for detention in hospital for up to 72 hours.  It requires only one medical recommendation from a doctor and the application is usually by an Approved Mental Health Professional, on very rare occasions it can be applied by the Nearest Relative.

Who would undertake a Section 4 assessment?

For Section 4 you need the applicant which is usually the Approved Mental Health Professional or Nearest Relative and one doctor, preferably the doctor would know the service user such as their GP or known Psychiatrist.  Otherwise it would be a section 12 approved doctor. 

How long does a Section 4 last and can you appeal?

Section 4 can last up to 72 hours but with another doctor providing the second medical recommendation this can be converted to Section 2.  There are no rights to appeal against Section 4 but you can appeal against Section 2.

How often is a Section 4 of the Mental Health Act used?

Section 4 is rarely used as it is not good practice to admit someone to hospital with only one medical recommendation, but occasionally it is necessary due to the urgency of the situation. 

How does a Section 4 of the Mental Health Act work in practice?

An example of a Section 4 could be a situation when a service user has attended an out-service user appointment and presented with acute depression, suicidal ideas and as a risk to others.  Admission may have been declined so the application could be made by the assessing doctor and the Approved Mental Health Professional for a Section 4 to admit the service user quickly.  This could then be converted to a Section 2 by the attendance of the second doctor.