What is a Section 5 (2) of the Mental Health Act?


What is a Section 5 (2) of the Mental Health Act?



Section 5 (2) is a temporary hold of an informal or voluntary service user on a mental health ward in order for an assessment to be arranged under the Mental Health Act 1983.  This ensures their immediate safety whilst the assessment is arranged. 

Who would place someone on a section 5 (2) of the Mental Health Act?

Section 5 (2) is temporary holding power which can be put on by the ward doctor or an Approved Clinician and would be due to increased concern about the deterioration in the service user’s mental health. This can include a lack of capacity to remain informally or it could be that they have become a risk to themselves or others and are not felt safe to leave the ward.  

How long does a Section 5 (2) of the Mental Health Act last?

Section 5 (2) can last up to 72 hours, but it is simply a temporary hold for the assessment to be co-ordinated which should be triggered as soon as it is put in place.  The assessment itself will be by an Approved Mental Health Professional   and two doctors, usually a doctor who is responsible for the service users care and if possible the second doctor also knows the service user, such as their GP. It cannot be 2 doctors from the same ward or team. The assessment by the Approved Mental Health Professional and doctors will decide whether the person needs further detention under section 2 or 3 or whether the section 5 (2) could be rescinded and the person could remain in hospital on an informal basis.

Can you appeal against a Section 5 (2) of the Mental Health Act?

A service user cannot appeal against Section 5 (2) which is why prompt assessment for ongoing detention is so important to arrange quickly.  The service user should be not on a section 5 (2) any longer than necessary, it is just temporary to prevent harm and ensure they receive a further assessment.

How does a Section 5 (2) of the Mental Health Act work in practice?

An example of section 5 (2) in practice could be a man on a ward who had been admitted informally a few days earlier.  During the shift ward staff had noticed him becoming more paranoid and expressing strange ideas.  He began to demand to leave the ward, became abusive towards staff and made threats to hurt his family.  So the ward doctor attended to assess and he became abusive to a member of staff and making threat to hurt his family and staff.  The ward doctor attended to assess and observed his behaviour and felt he needed to remain on the ward to reduce the risk to himself and others and prevent him leaving.  By placing him on a section 5 (2) the ward doctor would complete legal documentation and this would be receipted.  The Approved Mental Health Professional would then be called, who would then make arrangements to assess further under the Mental Health Act.