Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Review: The Pocketbook Guide to MHA Assessments

Claire Barcham is an AMHP who has been closely involved for a long time with the development of AMHP practice, including involvement with The College of Social Work as a professional practice development advisor. Based on her own experience, she has written a clear and concise guide to Mental Health Act Assessments.
The book is very easy to navigate (take note, Richard Jones). Of course, it is not purporting to be as painstaking and detailed as the Mental Health Act Manual, but is more designed to provide a practical guide to the basic process of assessing people under the MHA.
The book is in five parts: The Legal Landscape; Setting up Mental Health Act assessments; Managing MHA assessments and making decisions; Implementing decisions and admission to hospital; and rounding off with the newest addition to the MHA, Community Treatment Orders, in a section on Working with Compulsion in the Community.
The first section places the MHA within the wider legal context, including the Human Rights Act and the Mental Capacity Act. It also usefully looks at the interface between the Children Act 1989 and the MHA when considering detaining a child.
The second section concentrates on the process of setting up assessments, including the gathering of relevant information, making assessments of risk and urgency, and looking at alternatives. She then reviews the different sorts of situations in which MHA assessments arise, eg following Sec.5(2) and Sec.136, whether the assessment is in hospital or in the community, and also looks at Sec.135. There is a good analysis of issues relating to the Nearest Relative, including identification and displacement.
The third section concentrates on the actual assessment. This includes interviewing in a suitable manner, a breakdown of each individual section that involves detention, and the necessary criteria for admission under the MHA.
The fourth section looks at the process once a decision has been made. This importantly includes what needs to go on the section papers in order to ensure that they are legal and valid. Guidance on conveyance to hospital is included, as well as a helpful guidance for nurses and staff who receive the patient and the paperwork.
The final section compares and contrasts the various methods by which patients can be maintained in the community. This includes appropriate use of Sec.17 leave, guardianship, and of course, Community Treatment Orders.
Each section is heavily interspersed with examples from practice, as well as explicit references to legal issues, and also helpful reminders about other relevant legislation to bear in mind in certain situations, in particular, where the Mental Capacity Act may be considered, as well as checklists to guide one through each part of the overall process.

While experienced AMHP’s would probably not need to dip into this book that often, I would wholeheartedly recommend it as a very useful resource for AMHP trainees, social work and mental health nursing students, nurses, police, service users, and indeed anyone with a personal or professional interest in mental health  and the Mental Health Act.

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